Strange title but what I’m trying to articulate is the conundrum that value for money and hi-fi brings.
Brother in law and wife from USA staying with us for 3 weeks and the sofa bed is in the man cave.
So I’m sitting here in the main room listening to the KEF LS50W2 bought for such occasions whiling away an hour or so surfing hifi fora and sites when I land on the Innous Phoenix page and see an “audiophile” switch that costs more than the KEFs. (There are many sites that could throw up similar incongruities).
I mentioned it to my wife sitting next to me and her understandable reaction was €2700 for a switch!
So I’m here ruminating on whether some companies take us for fools? As in how could a switch cost as much as a pair of powered speakers with UPnP, AirPlay, Bluetooth, chromecast and Roon - which just need to be plugged in to provide music.
Either KEF is a charity or many items are priced purely based on expectations rather than actually cost or worth.
It is hard to assign a value to a product just on the basis of what it does, especially as the technology and detail required for improvements in sound quality mean that incremental sound quality improvements tend to dictate exponential cost increases. However I do think that there is a huge markup with some items, such that adding an “audiophile” tag seems to attract those who believe expensive inevitably means best, so prices are set high just to have credibility in the minds of such people, who are drawn by the exclusive image of things others can’t afford. Whether that applies in any particular instance such as the said switch I of course have no idea and speculation would be just that…
I often think cables are a prime example of this. Both interconnects and speaker cables.
You frequently see people on here talking about how they’ve bought cables that cost more than the amplifier that is pushing the current down them or the speakers they are feeding or the boxes they are connecting.
Whilst I appreciate we all want to get the best out of the equipment we’ve purchased, it seems like sheer lunacy to me that people will invest as much or more in a couple of lengths of copper/silver wire wrapped in a bit of plastic than the actual electronics at either end.
I’m oversimplifying things for sure and am ready to be shot down but when you step back and look at it as you’re doing @Sloop_John_B it doesn’t make sense.
What about cars costing more than the average house? Or meals out that cost the equivalent of scores of high quality pork pies. There’s all sorts of lunacy. Not to mention stereo packages costing less than the Kefs alone…
The SOTM OXCO master clock costs almost as much as the Innuos switch containing an OXCO and then requires a power supply to operate, making the Innuos very good value for money
I have 3 powerlines powering Naim pre-amp, power amp and extension block.
They made a difference surely but I’m not quite certain I’d excuse their pricing as once I might have had. One of the early attractions of Naim for me was their own interconnects and speaker cables “that just worked” and were sensibly priced.
Interesting question. My chord TT2 died and I had to revert to my old original TT whilst it was being repaired and didn’t think the mscaler added anything to the TT.
The difference was far less than I would have liked from a performance and cost perspective.
The biggest difference I have experienced in the last few years was HAF filters which sorted out some minor room issues. This has proved (at about 10% of the cost) a better improvement than the mscaler on my TT2).
However having experimented with HQ player and a Holo NOS DAC I liked what upsampling did but was driven demented by the amount of choices with HQP so welcomed the mscaler one size fits all improvement - in the context of it being about 10% of the cost of my full system… but I take your point.
I don’t mean to question individual choices rather question the pricing policies of some (many?) hifi companies.
We live in a world where we are just cash machines for companies. Particularly around hobbies.
Hifi, photography, cars, bikes, motorbikes, etc etc, a little tweak here a little tweak there and you are closer to the end of the rainbow.
My wife/partner (not SWMBO) and I talk about the endless search for perfection and the cost. Budget comes into play and in the past I could have gone further spending more dosh on hobbies, but not now, it’s pointless.
I always wonder why someone adds trick components to motorbikes, saving weight, chipping the things to death, to make them faster. When in reality they could diet, loose pounds and get that extra performance.
With audio thousands are spent on the search for perfection when we have dodgy room layouts or in my case waxed up ears.
Men seem more prone to this excess, but ……maybe not….
I get where your’e coming from, I guess I’ve asked myself the same thing from time to time. I have the MScaler, the Innuos PhoenixUSB and PhoenixNet, you just have to try things and see if they improve your system, I found the Innuos switches to have as big an impact as the MScaler.
There are loads of examples that can trigger the ‘how can it possibly…? thought. For example, how can a 1m Chord Music mains cable cost £4,999 when a Naim 250DR costs ‘only’ £4099. You’d imagine the 250 was way more expensive to make than the Music, but maybe not. Can it be justified because of expensive materials? Are Chord ripping people off? Is it expensive only because that makes people think it must be good?
Keeping within Naim, how can a Super Lumina interconnect cost as much as an Atom? How can a Fraim base cost £900 when it’s just two bits of wood, a sheet of glass and some metalwork?
In the end, it’s all about whether people feel the cost is justified. It’s impossible to say whether something is ‘worth it’.
I think there is a pretty big difference between age groups when it comes to this kind of (audiophile) spending. The currently younger generation (35 and younger) seems almost completely uninterested in products like high end power cables, switches etc, instead they are all about:
Headphones or active speakers
Small-in-ones or powered DAC/streamers
Objectivity - you can’t really find headphone reviews without extensive measurements
Tweakability - almost all younger reviewers exclusively use equipment with hardware parametric EQ and DSP to tweak sound
So a 2500,- switch or a 3500,- ethernet cable is completely uninteresting to this group. They will simply say:
Why would i need a 2500,- switch to reduce noise, or even a 500,- switch for that matter? I will simply buy a streamer or DAC that objective measurements show sufficiently rejects incoming noise.
Why would i want an amplifier or DAC with a particular sound signature? I want it to be neutral, because i can simply use the EQ and DSP in my equipment to tweak the sound how i want.
This is a completely different approach to the audiophile age group of 50-years and older, where all power is given to the manufacturers to determine how things work and sound.
It will be interesting to see how a number of brands, including Naim, will react to this change in market behaviour in a couple of years. I expect for example that it will be really difficult for Naim to increase market share in this younger demographic without introducing some form of EQ and adjustable DSP options in their products.
The ultimate arbiter of the worth or value of a bit of audio kit is how it sounds, no matter what your age is, that is unless you are looking for lifestyle kit.
Whether Naim can grow their market share with the younger demographic might be influenced by whether this demographic can be persuaded to actually listen to higher end kit, rather than follow the latest trend.
John Lewis have made a start by having MuSos to listen to in-store, but that is a very limited distribution channel, demonstrating a very limited range.
I think your obsevation neatly covers the difference @litemotiv was describing between younger and older listeners, in that the younger the person, as a generalisation, the more likely they are to be interested in it as a lifestyle accessory rather than a serious music listening cornerstone of living.
As for people more into objective assessments referenced by litemotiv, there are a lot in the older age group who feel that way, though perhaps fewer proportionately on the Naim forum than in the wider hifi buying community.