Question Is expensive hifi worth it today?

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robdmarsh

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Jun 28, 2015
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To the OP, if you're using Bluetooth and are happy with it try this. Get an ifi Zen blue, the first version is fine, and the iPower power supply and prepare to be amazed at the results. You should be able to get both used for around £120
 

Emark600

Well-known member
Dec 31, 2022
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True Dom - there's no bigger differences than those you get between speakers.
If you believe the reviews though, the Wharfedales are an unusually well balanced sound - none of the usual bright / dull comments.
In other words, a product unlikely to offend too many people.....maybe.

The point is the real value you can get with some products 👍
The question is, do we or should we believe reviews, do reviewers have other influences?

it’s difficult to listen to loads and loads of different speakers and set ups….for me, I chose my most recent pair after listening to just four other brands, but really happy with purchase - PSB T600s.

it’s like cars I guess, you can’t try them all…
 
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npxavar

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Nov 30, 2022
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Reviews are subjective and you won't get the same reaction as the reviewer. You may see where the reviewer is coming from though. What complicates matters greatly is that the audio chain might swamp the benefits or provide synergies that fix shortcomings. My first amp was a Marantz PM6006, and I sold it after 6 months. After using a cheap hybrid and the Cambridge Audio Sonata AR30 for two years I use a Cambridge Audio CXA80 now. The amp I sold has numerous awards, from the amps I actually kept none have a 5 star review. Did I mention that you may actually like a shortcoming? No replacement for auditions.
 

Witterings

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Sep 17, 2020
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My Marantz PM6007 doesn't have bluetooth, so I use a BT adaptor wired to the CD inputs on the amp. My phone connects to the BT adaptor. I can also connect the phone directly using RCA connector to the amp, but the signal seems weaker in volume.
If you're using Amazon music and currently BT, have a look at the WiiM mini streamer, it should be better than BT and if you use Amazon Unlimited it'll stream Ultra HD from the Amazon App on your phone so need to plug it in.

You could try a home audition of some other speakers and see if you felt there was an uplift in sound, that said in a Kitchen / Living area had smaller Monitor Audio BX1's and initially tried B&W 607's but they were too bright, my final choice ca,e down to Elac B5.2's or The Spektor 2's, I went with the Elacs only because it's a reaonable size room had a "bigger" sound ... apart from that couldn't decide between them.
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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Personally no. Been there. I got to over 10k worth of amp and floorstanders. Once I got over the novelty, in truth it was no more enjoyable than my mid 90s NAD and B&W budget setup. Yes it was more detailed, refined, dynamic, balanced but more pleasure to my life a year later? No, so I sold the lot, invested in sonos (surprisingly good as a 2.1 setup with play 5) but I sold that too. It took up too much space, and I hardly had the time to do the critical listening nonsense. My used / budget system I've just setup works fine in that I can hear all of the elements that make music fun, for me it's usually more about the situation, the company than the nth degree of detail these days. Oh and I use QED79 cheapo cable, and plug my units straight into the wall! I guess I realised that hifi itself became the hobby, not the music and that wasn't healthy in the long term.
 

Witterings

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Sep 17, 2020
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Personally no. Been there. I got to over 10k worth of amp and floorstanders. Once I got over the novelty, in truth it was no more enjoyable than my mid 90s NAD and B&W budget setup. Yes it was more detailed, refined, dynamic, balanced but more pleasure to my life a year later? No, so I sold the lot, invested in sonos (surprisingly good as a 2.1 setup with play 5) but I sold that too. It took up too much space, and I hardly had the time to do the critical listening nonsense. My used / budget system I've just setup works fine in that I can hear all of the elements that make music fun, for me it's usually more about the situation, the company than the nth degree of detail these days. Oh and I use QED79 cheapo cable, and plug my units straight into the wall! I guess I realised that hifi itself became the hobby, not the music and that wasn't healthy in the long term.
I can relate to this in so many ways ... one problem though is if you have a setup you don't like whilst you want to put it out of your mind and ignore it, if it's "harsh" or severely lacking in terms of other things you've heard it'll always just annoy you .... more than it should and that in itself will detract from the music / enjoyment.

I have in my work room / desktop setup an SMSL AO200 with some old Wharfedale 9.1's and in that room love it.
In a reasonable size kitchen living room, a Denon M39, I wanted "better" speakers than MA BX1's so tried B&W 607's and didn't like them at all .... ended up with Elac B5.2's and the combo's amasing and a much "fuller" sound than the BX1's.

The speaker upgrade in the Kitchen / Living area made me realise how muddy the speakers connected to the AVR in the lounge were, tried upgrading them and hit the "harsh" I mentioned above.
I upgraded to a dedicated amp rather than relying on the AVR hoping that'd make a difference and it didn't so changed the speakers but they're no different and whilst great with some music can just grate with other tracks so now looking at spending £3/4k on a set of speakers.

Problem is, you end up chasing the dragon, I'm sure you can get great setups that work like in my Kitchen / Living and work room that wouldn't work in others, but when you've heard good in one room, you want to replicate that in the others ... especially if you have a multiroom setup and go from one to the other.
I'm sure there's that "Mecca" combination out there that's probably less than £1500 for a great setup but unless you come across that from the get go it's easy to think .... maybe I haven't spent enough.

Other end of the spektrum, I bought an £80/90 panasonic mini system that included speakers because the unit had some funtionality I wanted. The unit was "OK" but you couldn't bear to play it through the included speakers.
A few weeks back we were sitting outsde for a drink, their outdoor speakers were so appallingly bad, even the other half said they're better off switching them off.

I think it's quite hard to step back from a £10k combo if it was good unless you found something you really liked for less.

In my opinion, it's about finding that balance and if you could demo every amp / speaker out there, I'm sure there are some £2k systems (maybe 2nd hand included) that the difference up to £10 or £20k if you had it just isn't worth it.
 
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SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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I should have added that a major reason for getting rid of my expensive gear was that my room is simply terrible acoustically. I had a -15dB node right in the main seating area, with few options at the time to do much about it other than give up. Impressively, using the Sonos app room correction feature, it helps a lot, when I had the 2 x Play5 + sub in place. We've since rearranged our lounge, and the TV / stereo fire across the width. It's still a crap acoustic, but at least I can hear below 60Hz now, so as I already knew from several house moves in late 2000s that your room is probably worth 50% of the value / performance of your system.
 

matthewpianist

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Feb 18, 2022
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In my experience the law of diminishing returns kicks in much earlier than many of us would like to admit. I've been as far as Quad Artera Stereo power amp and Play CD/pre-amp, and other kit of that level. It didn't give me any more musical enjoyment than the system I have now, and actually it mostly gave less. I've hit my magic spot with the system in my signature and I see no point whatsoever in venturing upwards again. Other opinions are available.
 

npxavar

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Nov 30, 2022
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In my experience the law of diminishing returns kicks in much earlier than many of us would like to admit. I've been as far as Quad Artera Stereo power amp and Play CD/pre-amp, and other kit of that level. It didn't give me any more musical enjoyment than the system I have now, and actually it mostly gave less. I've hit my magic spot with the system in my signature and I see no point whatsoever in venturing upwards again. Other opinions are available.
The system you have is capable of producing deep bass. This comes at a cost in terms of speakers, but in the amp space you have the option of the Class D amp which can indeed be something under the 1000 pound mark as the Bluesound Node 2i. Bass extension is the one thing you cannot get over with from the "Hi End" segment.
 

matthewpianist

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Feb 18, 2022
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The system you have is capable of producing deep bass. This comes at a cost in terms of speakers, but in the amp space you have the option of the Class D amp which can indeed be something under the 1000 pound mark as the Bluesound Node 2i. Bass extension is the one thing you cannot get over with from the "Hi End" segment.
The speakers I have produce as much of everything as I need. They're far more involving than anything else I've had. There would be no sufficient advantage to me making any changes in my system now.
 
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npxavar

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Nov 30, 2022
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Three-way bookshelfs have high quality bass output because of the dedicated driver and 47Hz bass extension may be all you need depending on the music you listen to.
 

npxavar

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Nov 30, 2022
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I have a Marantz PM6007 with a pair of Dali Spektor 2 speakers. I play all my music (mostly classical) via my Samsung S20 phone, and I stream using Amazon HD. The image below shows the location, a room about 9ft by 15ft, with soft furnishings/carpet. I find the sound quality really good and although I have heard other systems in other locations I think I could only really tell any difference if I could listen to them side-by-side. The important point is I really enjoy listening to the music because of the music itself, and as long as the music is played on fairly good quality equipment, as I have, then is there any point in paying thousands for something that is supposed to be superior?

The best piece of music I ever heard was All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix) in 1970 at a friends house where about 10 people were relaxing and perhaps smoking something they shouldn't have (but not me). It was played on vinyl on a slightly dodgy old record player. It sounded so good because of the vibe that was going on. The equipment didn't seem to matter too much.

So, is it worth upsetting my wife (a lot) and spending some money?


View attachment 4217
Audition a 3-way bookshelf speaker if you can. You will probably need to move the speakers at the front edge of the desk and assuming it is made of real wood they will offer enough rigidity. Not a perfect scenario but wooden furniture is what I use for my 7" Dali Oberon 3s. I wouldn't consider 2-way speakers with sub-50Hz bass extension with the PM6007. The separation of mids and lows in the driver level means that the mids wont' suffer if/when the amp struggles with the bass.
 
I think that's a little simplistic - integrating a three way is harder because of the additional crossover circuitry, and for a given budget your spend has to provide an additional driver - that isn't free, so means that all other things being equal you are looking at cheaper drivers.

There are few absolute rules, it seems to me.
 
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npxavar

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Nov 30, 2022
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I think that's a little simplistic - integrating a three way is harder because of the additional crossover circuitry, and for a given budget your spend has to provide an additional driver - that isn't free, so means that all other things being equal you are looking at cheaper drivers.

There are few absolute rules, it seems to me.
matthewpianist seems content with his Bluesound Node 2i + JBL Classic L52 combo.
 

manicm

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May 1, 2008
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I have a Marantz PM6007 with a pair of Dali Spektor 2 speakers. I play all my music (mostly classical) via my Samsung S20 phone, and I stream using Amazon HD. The image below shows the location, a room about 9ft by 15ft, with soft furnishings/carpet. I find the sound quality really good and although I have heard other systems in other locations I think I could only really tell any difference if I could listen to them side-by-side. The important point is I really enjoy listening to the music because of the music itself, and as long as the music is played on fairly good quality equipment, as I have, then is there any point in paying thousands for something that is supposed to be superior?

The best piece of music I ever heard was All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix) in 1970 at a friends house where about 10 people were relaxing and perhaps smoking something they shouldn't have (but not me). It was played on vinyl on a slightly dodgy old record player. It sounded so good because of the vibe that was going on. The equipment didn't seem to matter too much.

So, is it worth upsetting my wife (a lot) and spending some money?


View attachment 4217
Bluetooth should be the last resort, if only because it may be draining your phone battery compared to WiFi.

I'll be purchasing the Wiim Mini streamer for my non.-connected soundbar via optical, and will post my results here.

The Wiim offers both Spotify and Tidal Connect, so gapless for both, but other services used within its app may not be.

My soundbar sounds OK through its Bluetooth, but the audio quality is solid via HDMI and Tidal on TV, but it's a bit of a faff, and the Tidal TV app is not quite gapless.

So I'll send my feedback soonest.

Bluetooth sidebar:

While new higher codecs are welcome with better transmission, I still think the technology will remain the lowest common denominator for several reasons. One, you're using phone battery. Two, your phone or device may not always have the codec you desire. Three, and this may not always apply, from my limited experience, Bluetooth based apps (i.e to adjust device settings etc) are crap. Settings don't always persist, connection issues etc.

Just my two cents.
 
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podknocker

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Feb 5, 2021
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I think much of the stuff these days is way overpriced. I cannot understand why loudspeakers are so pricey. Take the Spendor A4 speakers. Some wood, cut and bonded, 2 drive units, some crossover kit and then placed in a box, for retail. They are nicely finished and sound good, but these floorstanders sell for £2850 now. I've seen videos, where these speakers are taken apart and there's nothing in there. I think the mark up is over 100% and they wouldn't be worth half the asking price. It's the same with the Harbeth range. I've never heard a pair and yes, they all get favourable reviews, but it's wood, drivers and screws! It's not as if it's a state of the art streamer, or amp, with a top end DAC, or capacitors filled with gold. People still pay these prices, so they will keep charging them. I have an Audiolab Omnia and I got a great trade in deal. I have a pair of QA3030i at the end of some TQ Ultra blue speaker cabling. It's all around £2k, if I bought it now and I think it's enough. The law of diminishing returns kicks in at not much more than this and to sell stuff, many companies resort to fancy aesthetics to entice customers. Form follows function and if a cosmetic addition doesn't improve sound quality, then it's a waste of money. I have quite a utilitarian view and if the build, design and materials do add to the sound quality, then that's fine. Embellishments and adornments don't do anything for me.
 
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Witterings

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Sep 17, 2020
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I think much of the stuff these days is way overpriced. I cannot understand why loudspeakers are so pricey. Take the Spendor A4 speakers. Some wood, cut and bonded, 2 drive units, some crossover kit and then placed in a box, for retail. They are nicely finished and sound good, but these floorstanders sell for £2850 now. I've seen videos, where these speakers are taken apart and there's nothing in there. I think the mark up is over 100% and they wouldn't be worth half the asking price. It's the same with the Harbeth range. I've never heard a pair and yes, they all get favourable reviews, but it's wood, drivers and screws! It's not as if it's a state of the art streamer, or amp, with a top end DAC, or capacitors filled with gold. People still pay these prices, so they will keep charging them. I have an Audiolab Omnia and I got a great trade in deal. I have a pair of QA3030i at the end of some TQ Ultra blue speaker cabling. It's all around £2k, if I bought it now and I think it's enough. The law of diminishing returns kicks in at not much more than this and to sell stuff, many companies resort to fancy aesthetics to entice customers. Form follows function and if a cosmetic addition doesn't improve sound quality, then it's a waste of money. I have quite a utilitarian view and if the build, design and materials do add to the sound quality, then that's fine. Embellishments and adornments don't do anything for me.
Whilst I totally agree with a lot of this, if they weren't worth the extra people wouldn't pay it unless they're just getting duped in with marketing hype which maybe a few are .... but if someone's a lot of time / experience listening to music / different systems and would probably compare them to others prior to buying them and if they weren't "better" they'd get an awful lot of bad press.

You're then into the old addage of a cruise company trying to get their engine to work on a ship, they've lost thousands due to cancelled trips and had lots of engineers look at the problem that weren't able to fix it.
Eventually they went with the expensive engineer who walked in and listened to the engine for 10 minutes, took out a hammer and tapped the engine and all was repaired ... he submitted a bill for £10,000.

The cruise company couldn't believe it for 10 minutes work and queried it asking him for a breakdown / justification to which he replied.
Tapping the engine with the hammer £5
35 years experience and learning so I knew where to tap with the hammer £9995

I also agree with diminishing returns and everybody has a level they're happy with but in essence it comes down to if you don't think they're worth it ... don't buy them but enough people are doing so for them to feel the price is justified.
 
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podknocker

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To be fair if you think the Spendors are too expensive what are you doing with TQ Ultra Blue speaker cables??
It's a fair cop mate. They match the colour of the inside of my TV/video unit! Yes, I know it's cosmetic, but they got good reviews and they are factory terminated. I don't like the bare wire/banana plug interface. They are flat ribbons. They are a very flexible material and not twisty runs and so they do tuck away nicely. I've had 'normal' cables and they are a pain to push into corners and along carpets etc. I'd never upgrade to the Mk2 as I know it's futile.
 
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busb

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How much is too much, how much is a lot? Spending more can gain you better build quality, longer life, better components, better SQ or none of the these. Some makes have gained credence in the press for SQ but have been poorly made with cheap components where both SQ and/or reliability deteriorates over time quicker than many.
There are some certainties such as paying say 3x more than average will not automatically get you 3x better SQ (which is a highly subjective measure anyway). Another certainty is spending silly money on cables won't lift a system by much. The law of diminishing returns applies to stereo equipment.
 

npxavar

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Nov 30, 2022
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To be fair if you think the Spendors are too expensive what are you doing with TQ Ultra Blue speaker cables??
This is just tipping your toes into the cables fantacy. I wouldn't call out anyone for that since some people pay the money for the Spendor A4 for speaker cables. I use "cheap" Atlas Element unterminated for what it's worth.
 

podknocker

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Feb 5, 2021
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This is just tipping your toes into the cables fantacy. I wouldn't call out anyone for that since some people pay the money for the Spendor A4 for speaker cables. I use "cheap" Atlas Element unterminated for what it's worth.
Will overpriced cables make an overpriced system sound better? Hmm. Trying to justify a 10% spend on cables, which many people do, with regards to the system cost is nonsense. A £10000 system night sound great with QED 79 strand. It's like saying because you own a Ferrari, you have to spend 10 times more on tyres. I'm not convinced.
 
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