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A golden period for budget hi-fi?

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
493
325
19,270
I make no secret of the fact that my main interest is in getting the best performance possible out of budget gear and it seems we are entering a bit of a golden period for budget hi-fi. It feels a bit like going back to how the market was when I was first getting into hi-fi - more choice and lots of interesting Japanese amps.

We have Sansui, resurrected by Paul Mitchell, launching new budget seperates - CD player, amp and streamer with a more expensive amp still to come.

For the first time in a while Pioneer seem to be taking hi-fi more seriously on a decent scale - it is out with the limited G-clef ranges and in with a whole raft of new integrated amps from below £200 upwards - A10, A20, A30, A50 and A70. Seems like the old days of Pioneer hi-fi! Then there are the matching CD players - PD10, PD30 and PD50 - and the already established N30 and N50 streaming units.

Denon are refreshing their budget ranges with the smartly styled 520 and 720 ranges of Amp and CD players and they also have a new DM39DAB and CEOL systems on the way.

Onkyo have new amps on the horizon and a new shoebox micro to compete with the new Denon.

Wharfedale are launching a new Diamond range with major changes from the Diamond 10 series - drive unit and port technology from the Jade series and the end of the curved cabinets.

This is all on top of the existing ranges from Marantz, Yamaha, NAD, Cambridge Audio, Rotel and Onkyo, and all the excellent affordable speakers out there.

Does anybody else feel we've never had it so good? Maybe we'll see Technics, Kenwood, Sony, and JVC back at some point as well? Who knows!
 

Frank Harvey

Well-known member
Jun 27, 2008
567
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I think this is being forced by the decline of AV over the past few years. Manufacturers who left 2-channel behind due to a massive shift in sales are now faced with far less income than they used to have, and need it back. Hi-fi, although steady for us, has been making a comeback for the past couple of years, albeit a little slowly. You'll notice a few stores around the country who are dropping TV's and moving back into 2-channel in a heavy way. Obviously this is a benefit to us all.

I would say over the past couple of years that we've never had it so good for AV - £10k PJ's 10 years ago are now outperformed by relatively budget models, andbudget AV receivers/amplifiers now are better equipped with features that even high end processors never had 5-10 years ago. I don't think we'll see much change in the high end, and I think other than new products on the budget side of things (more choice), I think the benefit to the cunsmuer will be in the mid price bracket - areas where the likes of Audiolab are making waves at the moment.
 

AlmaataKZ

New member
Jan 7, 2009
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I agree - the is a lot of good value electronics with very high quality these days and the functionality/convenience available is amazing - it is possible to put together a system sounding near-perfect on a very reasonable budget and it will be very hard to beat even at 10 times the amount. The 'diminishing returns' kick in very early these days!
 

shafesk

New member
Sep 18, 2010
136
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0
matthewpiano said:
I make no secret of the fact that my main interest is in getting the best performance possible out of budget gear and it seems we are entering a bit of a golden period for budget hi-fi. It feels a bit like going back to how the market was when I was first getting into hi-fi - more choice and lots of interesting Japanese amps.

We have Sansui, resurrected by Paul Mitchell, launching new budget seperates - CD player, amp and streamer with a more expensive amp still to come.

For the first time in a while Pioneer seem to be taking hi-fi more seriously on a decent scale - it is out with the limited G-clef ranges and in with a whole raft of new integrated amps from below £200 upwards - A10, A20, A30, A50 and A70. Seems like the old days of Pioneer hi-fi! Then there are the matching CD players - PD10, PD30 and PD50 - and the already established N30 and N50 streaming units.

Denon are refreshing their budget ranges with the smartly styled 520 and 720 ranges of Amp and CD players and they also have a new DM39DAB and CEOL systems on the way.

Onkyo have new amps on the horizon and a new shoebox micro to compete with the new Denon.

Wharfedale are launching a new Diamond range with major changes from the Diamond 10 series - drive unit and port technology from the Jade series and the end of the curved cabinets.

This is all on top of the existing ranges from Marantz, Yamaha, NAD, Cambridge Audio, Rotel and Onkyo, and all the excellent affordable speakers out there.

Does anybody else feel we've never had it so good? Maybe we'll see Technics, Kenwood, Sony, and JVC back at some point as well? Who knows!
I really miss Technics, wish they never had stopped production. SL 1200 prices have shot up in Singapore ever since. I hope they make a comeback with cheaper turntables and show the world again how its done. I'm holding on to my technics, it needs a lot of care and affection to keep it going but I know it'll be worth it when I can tell my kids all about the tt and the great brand that once existed.

I think Mp some credit should be given to our Chinese friends for the great budget kit available on the market today. Tube amps are now very attainable thanks to brands such as Cayin and little dot. Very high end stuff at great prices from brands such as Shanling----their CDps are so good that many reviewers use them as reference.

I think its the level of budget kit from our Chinese friends that has lead to innovative thinking from existing manufacturers to produce the kind of quality unheard of during the past 10 years when budget hifi wasn't really as tempting an option as it was today.
 

MUSICRAFT

Well-known member
matthewpiano said:
For the first time in a while Pioneer seem to be taking hi-fi more seriously on a decent scale - it is out with the limited G-clef ranges and in with a whole raft of new integrated amps from below £200 upwards - A10, A20, A30, A50 and A70. Seems like the old days of Pioneer hi-fi! Then there are the matching CD players - PD10, PD30 and PD50 - and the already established N30 and N50 streaming units.
Hi Matt

I for one will be interested how Pioneer's latest amplifiers hold up to their truly great A-400 :) Personally i think that Pioneer should find a way of bringing the A-400 back :pray:

All the best

Rick @ Musicraft
 

matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
493
325
19,270
MUSICRAFT said:
matthewpiano said:
For the first time in a while Pioneer seem to be taking hi-fi more seriously on a decent scale - it is out with the limited G-clef ranges and in with a whole raft of new integrated amps from below £200 upwards - A10, A20, A30, A50 and A70. Seems like the old days of Pioneer hi-fi! Then there are the matching CD players - PD10, PD30 and PD50 - and the already established N30 and N50 streaming units.
Hi Matt

I for one will be interested how Pioneer's latest amplifiers hold up to their truly great A-400 :) Personally i think that Pioneer should find a way of bringing the A-400 back :pray:

All the best

Rick @ Musicraft
Ha ha!! I'm guessing that, if any, it will be the A50 or A70 that might compete with the '400. I'm always surprised that they don't bring the A400 back, or at least something closely based on it. It was such a huge success and given the healthy used market for them, I'm sure Pioneer would sell them in big numbers.

I sometimes wonder the same with Denon. They had such success in the 90s and then the Advanced Evolution line has never really gone down as well. Why not do something based more on the PMA-255UK or any number of other talented amps they produced? Maybe their new product will go more in that direction, in sound at least....
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Apr 28, 2008
1,879
229
20,070
matthewpiano said:
I make no secret of the fact that my main interest is in getting the best performance possible out of budget gear and it seems we are entering a bit of a golden period for budget hi-fi. It feels a bit like going back to how the market was when I was first getting into hi-fi - more choice and lots of interesting Japanese amps.

We have Sansui, resurrected by Paul Mitchell, launching new budget seperates - CD player, amp and streamer with a more expensive amp still to come.

For the first time in a while Pioneer seem to be taking hi-fi more seriously on a decent scale - it is out with the limited G-clef ranges and in with a whole raft of new integrated amps from below £200 upwards - A10, A20, A30, A50 and A70. Seems like the old days of Pioneer hi-fi! Then there are the matching CD players - PD10, PD30 and PD50 - and the already established N30 and N50 streaming units.

Denon are refreshing their budget ranges with the smartly styled 520 and 720 ranges of Amp and CD players and they also have a new DM39DAB and CEOL systems on the way.

Onkyo have new amps on the horizon and a new shoebox micro to compete with the new Denon.

Wharfedale are launching a new Diamond range with major changes from the Diamond 10 series - drive unit and port technology from the Jade series and the end of the curved cabinets.

This is all on top of the existing ranges from Marantz, Yamaha, NAD, Cambridge Audio, Rotel and Onkyo, and all the excellent affordable speakers out there.

Does anybody else feel we've never had it so good? Maybe we'll see Technics, Kenwood, Sony, and JVC back at some point as well? Who knows!
Yup, it's great to see the old names making a comeback. Think it's a natural cycle: What comes around goes around.

I loved my old Pioneer SA-706 (circa 1976) - and was very highly rated by the mags at the time - and, obviously, the Marantz tuner. They were producing great affordable gear then and, it seems, still are.

They never lose that touch by producing quality equipment, but every now and again they come up with sensational.

Is this 1976 revisited?
 

batonwielder

Well-known member
May 13, 2008
32
2
18,545
It is indeed an exciting time for budget audiophiles. Well, I must say that, although relative, what is budget to many of us might be high-end for many others.

Most of my friends, professional musicians actually, have their eyes pop out at the cost of my system. When they do approach me for building a system, it's always under $1000.

I'm so glad the market's flourishing with such products. I, for one, have actually decided to scale down and have benefitted from it.

Hopefully this trend will continue and force brands to keep reinventing themselves.
 

steve_1979

Well-known member
Jul 14, 2010
231
7
18,795
matthewpiano said:
Does anybody else feel we've never had it so good?
I absolutely agree there. The point of deminishing returns kicks in at a very low price these days. If sensibly spent as little as £1000-2000 can buy you a speaker/amp system that comes suprisingly close to a good £10,000 system IMO.

As far as the source is concerned if you go digital you only need to spend a maximun a couple of hundred quid to get near perfect performance.

This together with things like streaming and the cloud it sure is exciting times for hifi.
 

Pike900fish

New member
Jun 23, 2008
20
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0
FrankHarveyHiFi said:
I think this is being forced by the decline of AV over the past few years. Manufacturers who left 2-channel behind due to a massive shift in sales are now faced with far less income than they used to have, and need it back. Hi-fi, although steady for us, has been making a comeback for the past couple of years, albeit a little slowly. You'll notice a few stores around the country who are dropping TV's and moving back into 2-channel in a heavy way. Obviously this is a benefit to us all.

I would say over the past couple of years that we've never had it so good for AV - £10k PJ's 10 years ago are now outperformed by relatively budget models, andbudget AV receivers/amplifiers now are better equipped with features that even high end processors never had 5-10 years ago. I don't think we'll see much change in the high end, and I think other than new products on the budget side of things (more choice), I think the benefit to the cunsmuer will be in the mid price bracket - areas where the likes of Audiolab are making waves at the moment.
Having recently down sized from 5.1 to 2 channel for predominantly music and some DVD, mainly music DVD, I could not agree more.

I belive if you get 2 channel right, it's a much more enjoyable listen than all the un natural bangs and crashes of 5.1....Keep that for the Cinema :grin: Interesting article for 2 channel hear: http://www.tnt-audio.com/topics/realstereo_e.html
 

Frank Harvey

Well-known member
Jun 27, 2008
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While the move to digital streaming has brought the front end price down, I disagree that the law of diminishing returns kicks in at a low price nowadays. I used to feel that once you got to about a £1k per component, it kicked in and that it was hard to justify the extra cost. But since starting here almost 7 years ago, I feel very differently, maybe because the range of equipment here is far greater, and I can appreciate the difference more having spent time with better equipment.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
matthewpiano said:
MUSICRAFT said:
matthewpiano said:
For the first time in a while Pioneer seem to be taking hi-fi more seriously on a decent scale - it is out with the limited G-clef ranges and in with a whole raft of new integrated amps from below £200 upwards - A10, A20, A30, A50 and A70. Seems like the old days of Pioneer hi-fi! Then there are the matching CD players - PD10, PD30 and PD50 - and the already established N30 and N50 streaming units.
Hi Matt

I for one will be interested how Pioneer's latest amplifiers hold up to their truly great A-400 :) Personally i think that Pioneer should find a way of bringing the A-400 back :pray:

All the best

Rick @ Musicraft
Ha ha!! I'm guessing that, if any, it will be the A50 or A70 that might compete with the '400. I'm always surprised that they don't bring the A400 back, or at least something closely based on it. It was such a huge success and given the healthy used market for them, I'm sure Pioneer would sell them in big numbers.

I sometimes wonder the same with Denon. They had such success in the 90s and then the Advanced Evolution line has never really gone down as well. Why not do something based more on the PMA-255UK or any number of other talented amps they produced? Maybe their new product will go more in that direction, in sound at least....
My dad had the 600 reference version coupled with ms3.30 speakers. Sounded amazing! I'm sure that was circa 1990. He could only afford them as he paid trade price while working as warehouse manager at upfields. That stereo filled our house with loud music for years. I'm sure he had a matching cd player too!
 

AlmaataKZ

New member
Jan 7, 2009
295
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FrankHarveyHiFi said:
While the move to digital streaming has brought the front end price down, I disagree that the law of diminishing returns kicks in at a low price nowadays. I used to feel that once you got to about a £1k per component, it kicked in and that it was hard to justify the extra cost. But since starting here almost 7 years ago, I feel very differently, maybe because the range of equipment here is far greater, and I can appreciate the difference more having spent time with better equipment.
Dave, re where does the diminishing returns kick in -

if we take an example of streamers, how would you position some popular today’s ones on price/soundquality scale (from analog outs and not considering other things like interface, looks, size etc)?

for example, in this line-up (and as far as you have experience with - feel free to use other examples), we know how far apart these are on price scale, but how far apart these are on sound quality?

WDTV

AppleTV

SB Touch

Cambridge Audio mp30

Marantz CR603

A budget avr with airplay

Sonos zoneplayer

Mac Mini

Linn Klimax

Olive 6HD

Meridian Sooloos

etc

From these I only heard the SB Touch, Mac Mini and briefly the Linn (and thought they sounded very similar) but you may have a broader/deeper experience. So if I say the diminishing returns with streamers kicks in strongly at about 150-300 quid, where would you put it?

Expereinces from others are invited of cause too, not just from David.
 

paradiziac

New member
Jan 8, 2011
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AlmaataKZ said:
FrankHarveyHiFi said:
While the move to digital streaming has brought the front end price down, I disagree that the law of diminishing returns kicks in at a low price nowadays. I used to feel that once you got to about a £1k per component, it kicked in and that it was hard to justify the extra cost. But since starting here almost 7 years ago, I feel very differently, maybe because the range of equipment here is far greater, and I can appreciate the difference more having spent time with better equipment.
Dave, re where does the diminishing returns kick in -

if we take an example of streamers, how would you position some popular today’s ones on price/soundquality scale (from analog outs and not considering other things like interface, looks, size etc)?

for example, in this line-up (and as far as you have experience with - feel free to use other examples), we know how far apart these are on price scale, but how far apart these are on sound quality?

WDTV

AppleTV

SB Touch

Cambridge Audio mp30

Marantz CR603

A budget avr with airplay

Sonos zoneplayer

Mac Mini

Linn Klimax

Olive 6HD

Meridian Sooloos

etc

From these I only heard the SB Touch, Mac Mini and briefly the Linn (and thought they sounded very similar) but you may have a broader/deeper experience. So if I say the diminishing returns with streamers kicks in strongly at about 150-300 quid, where would you put it?

Expereinces from others are invited of cause too, not just from David.
Where diminishing returns kicks in is an individual matter. Depends on your taste and how much money you think is "a lot".

I'm in general agreement with David though. Take any component and then listen to one from the "next level up in the range" and the more expensive one almost always sounds better--you can go a long way before you don't hear any improvement.

On the subject of digital sources, the differences are more subtle than with speakers or amplification, but real nonetheless. If you're curious, try it (I have). Ask a friendly and knowledgable dealer to set up their favourite well-balanced 6-8K system and then swap out the front end for any "perfect" £200 streamer/DAC on your list.

You'll certainly hear a difference, though whether or not it will be "worth it", only you can say.
 

steve_1979

Well-known member
Jul 14, 2010
231
7
18,795
FrankHarveyHiFi said:
While the move to digital streaming has brought the front end price down, I disagree that the law of diminishing returns kicks in at a low price nowadays. I used to feel that once you got to about a £1k per component, it kicked in and that it was hard to justify the extra cost. But since starting here almost 7 years ago, I feel very differently, maybe because the range of equipment here is far greater, and I can appreciate the difference more having spent time with better equipment.
I'm only speaking from my own experiance but with digital products a good £200-£300 DAC sounds virtually the same as much more expensive DAC's.

As for the amp and speakers spending around £2000 on a pair of Genelec or Opal Event speakers will give at least 90% of the performance of the best £10,000 systems. This is just my opinion based on my own experiances of course. :)
 

John Duncan

Well-known member
Jan 8, 2008
2,027
13
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AlmaataKZ said:
So if I say the diminishing returns with streamers kicks in strongly at about 150-300 quid, where would you put it?
At the same place. In fact you can pay more for streamers and get less.

Note that that doesn't mean I don't think it's worth paying for those diminished returns personally.
 

WinterRacer

New member
Jan 14, 2009
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paradiziac said:
On the subject of digital sources, the differences are more subtle than with speakers or amplification, but real nonetheless. If you're curious, try it (I have). Ask a friendly and knowledgable dealer to set up their favourite well-balanced 6-8K system and then swap out the front end for any "perfect" £200 streamer/DAC on your list.

You'll certainly hear a difference, though whether or not it will be "worth it", only you can say.
Not my experience, in fact it was a cause of some consternation. I couldn't hear any difference between my award winning £2K CD transport/DAC and the analogue output of my Squeezebox Touch. Or for that matter, between my £1200 DAC and a £150 MF V-DAC. This was with a fairly expensive system and through a Graham Slee Solo -> Sennheiser HD650s.

So, although YMMV, two messages. Firstly, inexpensive kit can sound very very good and secondly, expensive kit may not sound any better to you.

I think things will get even better for hi-fi when the industry separates out real advances from expensive foam pads! :)
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,233
5
19,195
steve_1979 said:
As for the amp and speakers spending around £2000 on a pair of Genelec or Opal Event speakers will give at least 90% of the performance of the best £10,000 systems.
(Sound of screeching brakes.)

Whoa!

Only 90 percent?

Almost any thread I can ever remember - on the subject of (true) active vs passive systems - has had adherents asserting that £2000 active systems (like AVI ADM9s + AVI sub or those you mentioned) easily beating £5k - £10k systems.

I can't remember any fans of such active systems saying they get "at least 90 percent of the performance".

What has happened to the usual, unequivocal superiority of active? The remaining 10 percent performance (or up to 10 percent that you have just acknowledged) is a lot - in absolute terms - and would justify many people in expending £10K to achieve it.
 

moon

New member
Nov 10, 2011
47
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chebby said:
steve_1979 said:
As for the amp and speakers spending around £2000 on a pair of Genelec or Opal Event speakers will give at least 90% of the performance of the best £10,000 systems.
(Sound of screeching brakes.)

Whoa!

Only 90 percent?

Almost any thread I can ever remember - on the subject of (true) active vs passive systems - has had adherents asserting that £2000 active systems (like AVI ADM9s + AVI sub or those you mentioned) easily beating £5k - £10k systems.

I can't remember any fans of such active systems saying they get "at least 90 percent of the performance".

What has happened to the usual, unequivocal superiority of active? The remaining 10 percent performance (or up to 10 percent that you have just acknowledged) is a lot - in absolute terms - and would justify many people in expending £10K to achieve it.
:)
 

AlmaataKZ

New member
Jan 7, 2009
295
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0
steve_1979 said:
I'm only speaking from my own experiance but with digital products a good £200-£300 DAC sounds virtually the same as much more expensive DAC's.

As for the amp and speakers spending around £2000 on a pair of Genelec or Opal Event speakers will give at least 90% of the performance of the best £10,000 systems. This is just my opinion based on my own experiances of course. :)
I would say 95% or more. but then if you want to get 'better' means you need to increase the size of the speakers (i.e. increase the range (depth) and/or max SPL while maintaining the quality), and that leads to the price increasing quicker

for example, being a user of atc 50 actives I have tried avi adm9s and the result was the 9s deliver as good as the much bigger and more expensive 50s, excepti in the depth of bass and high(er) volumes.
 

fr0g

New member
Jan 7, 2008
445
0
0
chebby said:
steve_1979 said:
As for the amp and speakers spending around £2000 on a pair of Genelec or Opal Event speakers will give at least 90% of the performance of the best £10,000 systems.
(Sound of screeching brakes.)

Whoa!

Only 90 percent?

Almost any thread I can ever remember - on the subject of (true) active vs passive systems - has had adherents asserting that £2000 active systems (like AVI ADM9s + AVI sub or those you mentioned) easily beating £5k - £10k systems.

I can't remember any fans of such active systems saying they get "at least 90 percent of the performance".

What has happened to the usual, unequivocal superiority of active? The remaining 10 percent performance (or up to 10 percent that you have just acknowledged) is a lot - in absolute terms - and would justify many people in expending £10K to achieve it.
Woahh. Sound of someone with little or no observational skills.

Such systems can and do outperform £10,000 systems.

If you read what Steve says..."90% of the performance of the best £10,000 systems"
 

John Duncan

Well-known member
Jan 8, 2008
2,027
13
19,695
fr0g said:
chebby said:
steve_1979 said:
As for the amp and speakers spending around £2000 on a pair of Genelec or Opal Event speakers will give at least 90% of the performance of the best £10,000 systems.
(Sound of screeching brakes.)

Whoa!

Only 90 percent?

Almost any thread I can ever remember - on the subject of (true) active vs passive systems - has had adherents asserting that £2000 active systems (like AVI ADM9s + AVI sub or those you mentioned) easily beating £5k - £10k systems.

I can't remember any fans of such active systems saying they get "at least 90 percent of the performance".

What has happened to the usual, unequivocal superiority of active? The remaining 10 percent performance (or up to 10 percent that you have just acknowledged) is a lot - in absolute terms - and would justify many people in expending £10K to achieve it.
Woahh. Sound of someone with little or no observational skills.

Such systems can and do outperform £10,000 systems.

If you read what Steve says..."90% of the performance of the best £10,000 systems"
(sigh) @thelotofyou
 

Frank Harvey

Well-known member
Jun 27, 2008
567
0
18,890
AlmaataKZ said:
FrankHarveyHiFi said:
While the move to digital streaming has brought the front end price down, I disagree that the law of diminishing returns kicks in at a low price nowadays. I used to feel that once you got to about a £1k per component, it kicked in and that it was hard to justify the extra cost. But since starting here almost 7 years ago, I feel very differently, maybe because the range of equipment here is far greater, and I can appreciate the difference more having spent time with better equipment.
Dave, re where does the diminishing returns kick in -

if we take an example of streamers, how would you position some popular today’s ones on price/soundquality scale (from analog outs and not considering other things like interface, looks, size etc)?

for example, in this line-up (and as far as you have experience with - feel free to use other examples), we know how far apart these are on price scale, but how far apart these are on sound quality?
Streamers are a little different. I was actually referring to the likes of speakers and amplification, and record decks which rely on pure engineering.

I did say that streaming had brought the "front end" price down.
 

AlmaataKZ

New member
Jan 7, 2009
295
0
0
FrankHarveyHiFi said:
AlmaataKZ said:
FrankHarveyHiFi said:
While the move to digital streaming has brought the front end price down, I disagree that the law of diminishing returns kicks in at a low price nowadays. I used to feel that once you got to about a £1k per component, it kicked in and that it was hard to justify the extra cost. But since starting here almost 7 years ago, I feel very differently, maybe because the range of equipment here is far greater, and I can appreciate the difference more having spent time with better equipment.
Dave, re where does the diminishing returns kick in -

if we take an example of streamers, how would you position some popular today’s ones on price/soundquality scale (from analog outs and not considering other things like interface, looks, size etc)?

for example, in this line-up (and as far as you have experience with - feel free to use other examples), we know how far apart these are on price scale, but how far apart these are on sound quality?
Streamers are a little different. I was actually referring to the likes of speakers and amplification, and record decks which rely on pure engineering.

LIKE did say that streaming had brought the "front end" price down.
Ah, now understand. And agree, compared to the leaping progress in electronics, it is much more difficult to make complex mechanical things cheaper, although this area also progresses. Manufacturers in Asia are getting very strong (and good value).
 

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