Question Is expensive hifi worth it today?

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nopiano

Well-known member
That's a good point but any differences heard, i guess, must have a corresponding measurement to confirm it ?

Another test would be to plug a CD player direct into some "proper" active studio monitors ?

These are designed to be as accurate as possible so any differences between CD players, real or imagined, should become obvious.
CD players definitely sound different to each other. That’s not really the question, and it’s hardly surprising given there are dozens of differences in transports, construction, and the DACs. But if you believe all bits are created equal then you’ll conclude that a car boot sale DVD player sounds the same into a given DAC as a multi-thousand £ luxury player from say Accuphase or Luxman into the same DAC.

And if you read ASR you’ll see that they reckon a Topping DAC is world beating. I’m not so sure!
 
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podknocker

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Feb 5, 2021
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I agree a cheapo £30 DVD player will sound worse than a dedicated CD player, at £300 but my point earlier was that when you get to £300 of CD player technology (and not gold plated XLR sockets), then there isn't much more room for improvement. This stuff has been around for over 40 years and hasn't changed much, apart from a few refinements with the lasers and DACs etc. Transports, PSUs and DACs don't cost thousands of pounds. Companies try to justify the price, by adding extra stuff that can't affect sound quality. It becomes the equivalent of a HIFI Rolex. I also listen to CDs on my old Dell laptop, with my Sennheiser HD600 cans plugged in and it sounds incredible. People don't think this can happen, or don't want to think it can happen, because there's a lot of geekery and snobbery, to be honest. Many tech sites and forums reinforce this point of view and it becomes an echo chamber of elitism and delusion. You don't need to spend thousands to get a really high quality sound. My Sony 4k Blu Ray player cost £249 and was built like a tank. Every format and codec covered and the picture and sound quality were amazing. People with lots of money want to distance themselves from this sector, because they feel superior, wasting thousands on exotic kit.
 
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Anything which retails in small numbers will be overpriced in comparison with more mass market stuff - that's retail economics for you. And if we want dealers we can visit and demo stuff at (the single most commonly repeated piece of advice here), we have to accept that. My CDP sounds better than the OPPO blu ray. It may be primarily the DAC and some minor tweaking here and there, but as it was 2nd hand at a price I was content with, who cares? Setting an arbitrary price above which you are a fool being parted from your cash feels uncomfortably close to inverted snobbery to me.
 
We're a gullible and lazy species, Dom!

That fuse retailing for £4,200 isn't really intended to sell - it's intended to make a £1k fuse seem somehow a bargain. Without the higher price, that doesn't happen.

It's also why things often come in three sizes - the largest of which is seldom bought. Without the biggest, the middle one might seem an extravagance. But with it, it becomes the 'safe' option.
 

Friesiansam

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Feb 3, 2015
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We're a gullible and lazy species, Dom!

That fuse retailing for £4,200 isn't really intended to sell - it's intended to make a £1k fuse seem somehow a bargain. Without the higher price, that doesn't happen.

It's also why things often come in three sizes - the largest of which is seldom bought. Without the biggest, the middle one might seem an extravagance. But with it, it becomes the 'safe' option.
Plenty of new Tory promoted billionaires in this country, for whom £1,000 for a fuse, might be as nothing.
 

WayneKerr

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Jan 21, 2022
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Modern kit is so overpriced. If a CD player costs over £300 it's a waste of money. This technology is 43 years old and hasn't really changed, apart from shorter wavelength lasers and improvements in DACs etc. My Sony 4k Blu Ray player was £249 and built like a tank. It would play any format and codec and the picture and sound quality were superb. There's no reason to spend more on this type of device. I sold it when I got rid of my Toshiba TV. I remember reading a Cary Audio CD player review, several years ago and this thing retailed for nearly 4 grand. I checked and researched the specs and it used a £7 (SEVEN) Sanyo CD transport. Along with the case, PSU and a sprinkling of chips and capacitors, this thing would have cost about £200 to build. Retailing for £400 would have given Cary a decent profit. These companies are ripping people off and I will no longer fall for this nonsense.
Well, I'm gonna poke my head above the parapet :) I don't think I'm easily fooled, I don't believe in cable theory, and don't believe that DACs sound particularly different from each other.

Three years ago I would have agreed with your comments on CD players/DACs. My upgrade path from an entry-level system to the next level up totally underwhelmed me as I could not perceive any significant difference between the two systems... guess I should have called it a day and stopped there... but I didn't. Next upgrade I jumped two levels... huge difference!

I think we would agree that an amp is purely there to amplify the signal from a selected source whilst adding nothing and detracting nothing from that signal; apart from controlling the speakers effectively. If this is correct then all I can say is my CD player and DAC are the stars of the show. Personally, the sonic enjoyment I now get from my current system is way above anything I ever heard, or could have expected, from my previous Amp/CDP.

All the systems have been Marantz.
 

Dom

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Aug 6, 2011
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I think we would agree that an amp is purely there to amplify the signal from a selected source whilst adding nothing and detracting nothing from that signal; apart from controlling the speakers effectively.
I was just talking about this very thing with my brother, his take on this is that to amplify the sound you need add electricity and in doing so change the waveform because your adding to the signal in order to boost the sound.

He's a mathematician so his brain works like that.
 

Dom

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Aug 6, 2011
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This is from ( The amazing ) ChatGPT : An amplifier amplifies an input signal to produce a larger output signal. It does this by increasing the power of the input signal to drive a load, such as a speaker.

Amplifiers use electronic circuits that increase the strength of the input signal without distorting its waveform.

The most common type of amplifier is the linear amplifier, which amplifies the input signal by a fixed gain factor, and the non-linear amplifier, which amplifies the input signal by a varying gain factor.
 
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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
You have a cosy room and you've got equilibrium. I would say no, don't change.

BUT, if we had to swap places, and I had spare cash...the Marantz PM 7000N is currently heavily discounted. So I would take that, and maybe get Dalis a notch up to match. I hate multiple boxes, and this would be ideal.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
I was just talking about this very thing with my brother, his take on this is that to amplify the sound you need add electricity and in doing so change the waveform because your adding to the signal in order to boost the sound.

He's a mathematician so his brain works like that.
Mmm, I think he had better stick to maths then! ;)
 
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SteveR750

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Just remember just because something tests good doesn't mean it's going to sound good once placed within a system.
Testing an item itself is meaningless.
I disagree. Testing and measurement is where it starts, it's engineering. The designers know what their products can and can't do because they measure them. If they don't then you might as well be buying a box of smoke and mirrors. It's the marketing BS and pseudo science that is peddled to confuse and distract the consumer. If you measure the appropriate parameters with the right instruments you will be able to reliably differentiate good from bad. The key word is reliably, which is where subjective assessment falls over. Even if we agree on the adjectives (shoot me if I read another night and day comment on listening to dacs) then the large variation in our aural responses mean they're not sufficiently reliable. This is not new, and the main reason that the pen was invented. Measuring hardware is the equivalent of writing down an instruction manual instead of trying to memorise a conversation.
 
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SteveR750

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And if you read ASR you’ll see that they reckon a Topping DAC is world beating. I’m not so sure!
Why are you not sure?

What has ASR missed that would help define how good something is (without using ears, see below!)
Let's not confuse the things,
Items can sound different
Items can measure differently.
Not everyone hears those same differences.
Many people can make the same measurable differences
It's perfectly OK to like distortion, bright or dark, thin, warm etc etc.

We confuse the engineering process with the su jectuve assessment and start to believe that the latter is the ground truth, it's not, its just our personal taste / opinion!

The topping dacs are great products from a design and performance pov. Never owned one, so can't comment on build quality etc, but 8ve no doubt that IF I wanted the truth, it would present it. The risk is, I might not it like it....
 
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SteveR750

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Measurements will tell you which kit is theoretically the best but, they won't tell you how it will sound to your own ears, in your own home, when listening to your favourite music.
Possibly not, but once you've calibrated your preferences and room to a set of measurements you can more quickly work out what will and won't match in the future. Better still, take the good measuring hardware, and use DSP to mitigate your worst room effects and give you the tonal colour you prefer.
You're probably still better using a spec sheet as a guide than the opinion of a self proclaimed expert on YouTube though. There's a reason why industry uses good objective measurement to certify parts for use, that's not necedsarily in the commercial interests of consumer electronics though.
 
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nopiano

Well-known member
Why are you not sure?
Because I think Topping are playing the numbers game, to get high rankings in ASR’s virtually meaningless SINAD league table. My experience is that the best sounding gear has excellent underpinning engineering but is auditioned carefully too at the design stage.

I didn’t mean to potentially divert this into a ‘measurement’ or truth-v- preference debate, so maybe I should try a ChiFi DAC one day to see what I make of it.
 

MrSinghsStereo

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Feb 22, 2022
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years ago, Amir from ASR was very pal-ly with the mainsteam hifi journalits on thw west coast. He often wrote about how great their high end systems were. Something obviously turned sour or he saw a gap in the media market to exploit. All he seems to do now is denigrate high end audio and champion the likes of Topping because they measure well .
 
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SR-91

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Jan 4, 2023
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Measurements will tell you which kit is theoretically the best but, they won't tell you how it will sound to your own ears, in your own home, when listening to your favourite music.
Exactly.

Soundstage width, soundstage depth, instrument separation are all important factors to how a system sounds to me.

Are there measurements to show these traits ?
 

Lexxie

Active member
Feb 6, 2023
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You can get some big improvements in the free and cheap areas first, before throwing away money.

HUGE upgrade:
1. The weak link in your chain is the source, phone with bluetooth, etc. Use an old throwaway phone and hard-wire it into the Marantz PM6007 with a usb-to-coaxial or optical conversion so that you're getting a nice lossless input from Amazon into its superior DAC.

GOOD upgrade:
2. You can pay outrageous amount on speaker stands or just get something like this: https://www.amazon.com/Sound-Dampening-Speaker-Riser-Foam/dp/B00SVRLQSE
Even, just find any old foam it's better than nothing.

BIG upgrade:
3. Room treatment and speaker positioning. It's a lot of trial and error but here are ideas to get you started. http://arqen.com/acoustics-101/room-setup-speaker-placement/

MAJOR upgrade:
4. Subwoofer. The human ear is far less sensitive to placement and detail on low frequencies, which means doing your research on best class-beating subwoofer under $(budget) could give you a big upgrade.

~*~

So you see, on a very low budget and some actual effort on your part, you could, I believe, be a lot more pleased by enhancing what you've already got, instead of being like a government that just throws money at the problem.

Even if you do get more expensive stuff later, this will help you get the most out of the newer hi-fi stuff too!
 
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Witterings

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Sep 17, 2020
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Every amplifier must be adding, or subtracting , something more than just energy. Presumably the key to success lies in minimising that addition, or subtraction.
Tink there's somethin to be said for this .... I was using my AVR for stereo in direct mode to avoid any "flavouring" from the amp / it's EQ and some songs with deep bass were very rumbly / unpleasant to listen to.
I thought it was my speakers so upgraded those (I wanted to anyway) and it was the same, it was only when I then upgraded to a seperate amp it stopped.
I did wonder if it's "flavoured" to give that rumble for movie effects like thunder / expolsions etc. so targeting the AVR rather than stereo market but surely that'd be software based and direct mode should bypass that.
Apart from this one trait though it's hard to differentiate between them, especially as you only get it in certain songs.
 

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