Diminishing returns

I’m currently listening to Spotify via a chrome cast audio plugged straight into my preamp. It probably cost all of £80 compared to tens of thousands of pounds of kit I usually use but it plays Spotify easily whixh my zenith doesn’t. It strikes me listening that it’s a perfect example of diminishing returns in hifi as it gives way more than you would expect for it’s price and certainly my usual streaming or cd kit sounds better but really the best part of 20k better, I don’t think so. Chrome cast audio is a lot of fun for not much money


I’ve had one for years. Its optical out to a dac is very good, a newer low cost option with even more functionality is the WiiM Mini, optical out to dac.


Yes, I think as time goes by the quality of low cost kit has been progressing in leaps and bounds, narrowing the sound quality gap between it an high quality hifi - while at the top end improvements seem to command an exponential price curve.

Bad for anyone who foolishly regards their hifi kit as a good financial investment, but good for everyone else.


Very true. My Sonos Beam plonked on a wooden mantle piece with a Sonos sub hiding in the corner of the room along with some fine tuning using their Sonos Trueplay app (do this alone with the curtains drawn) sounds excellent.


Interesting, I forgot it could do digital out. I wonder how it would be plugged into my Dave?

My Toslink digital out from my TV set top box to my streamer is a delight for watching YouTube music videos.

It cuts the Electromagnetic noise pollution that streams from the cheap ISP router.


Just ordered one of the river. I’ll have one somewhere but god knows where

Diminishing returns is hard to quantify when audio enjoyment is subjective.

I feel people should go to stores and listen to the tiers of kit available and set themselves a wallet lock when they cannot appreciate the improvements that the tier above may offer in sound quality (not aesthetics/materials), for thise with ‘more money than sense’.

everyone else basically falls into a category of ‘want more’, but want bargain/‘great value’ to get there.

The extra cost to do sound right (and achieve natural sound) vs Sabre DAC chips and class D (etc) amps, that all chase the tail of audio excellence and render an approximation close to top of the tree sound for ‘less’, are incredible in terms of 'low cost of (high quality) audio adoption…

But the market has spoken- wallets dictate design directions.

just lkke compiter SSD drives weren’t affordable, so manufacturers found ways to deliver ‘mostly the same product’ (but more affordable) and the rest is history. (fast reliable SSD drives are still expensive, but lots of cost effective alternatives imitate top of tree parts for peanuts price points).

the problem with subjective criteria vs objective merits is that who defines what is ‘close enough’…?

as someone who grew up with TOTL amplification and has used many top of the line parts over many decades… audio since the year 200X hasn’t really interested me in new ways (vs what e had before).
the last couple of dcades, to me, is mostly new tiers of lower quality ‘junk-fi’ appearing and what was previously affordable ‘nice-fi’ has all mlstly gone statospheric pricing.

the difference between budget and behemoth system being very wide, more so than ever…

whilst I find a nice DAC into a Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin speaker a justifiable bargain basement system (MY minimum SQ!), obtainable with a musical subwoofer, second hand for the cost of less than a hifi VHS player was… I find that if I had to buy ‘all new’ I’d have to put down stupid money to equal that sound quality level. (today)

As someone who couldnt endure most sub $1k price point stereo kit twenty years ago (hifi had given way to surround sound, and quality stereo gear started to get expensive), today I’d need 5x the cost to net superior sound (to sound thqt barely passed muster twenty years ago).

of course finding a Sansui AU919 second hand for 200$ (in the year 2000), showed me that I was wasting my money buying new.

every world financial crisis equals less sound for more money.
and now we have a market driven by internet reviewers who champion five star crap en masse and a handful of hobbyists and audiophiles opinions aren’t of any value.
bricks and mortar is unsustainable, so more and more cases of the blind leadung the blind.

so THX headphone amps rule the waters, DAC chips need only decode DSD and 32bit 768khz etc to be ‘the best’ (ideally, for some, with MQA or some fad included),
and dinosaurs like me who chase their tail with 16bit 44khz fed from heavy transports into Non Oversampling Ladder DACs with tight (rejection) tolerances on the digital signal are a dying breed.

I have a music player using 4x “junkfi” DAC chips and a tube output stage.
the tube stage actually makes it one of the best (modern) audio parts in the house.
it is, in tube mode, akin to good audio (from yesteryear).

most cannot see the subtleties that extra cash beings to this hobby…
and modern junk targets those sound traits so that early reviews can rave about how well they all compare with each other.

heck so many audio science pages where people complain that the cowt of doing something right isnt worth the extra cost vs ‘better measuring’ (three metrics) cheaper junk fi.

I call it junkfi cause three years from now its where it will sit…

whilst every world financial crisis has lowered parts quality or raised prices, the metrics that matter quickly dropping from spec sheets (slew rates and damping factors and ‘low ohm drive’/headroom), thats alright cause by pure LUCK (tongue in cheek here); the new replacement stuff that measures well and weighs nothing and is cheap to implement etc is all magically ‘the next best thing’.

I like my hifi heavy, and having to match the parts with love… my hobby now, it seems, is more about finding ‘buck the trends’ bargains than actually sampling the market and the stuff that floods it.

value is easy to find in every tier of equipment, but true, best bang to buck is the absolute start of the journey… (included ear buds with a 10$ mp3 player).

in the bottom three tiers of hifi, most do not seem to care about accurate digital feeds, rather they focus on being digital compatible (suits cause the associated parts they hook up to will have W I D E tolerances (vs tight tolerances, better for absolute sound quality).

at any point along the journey someone will give less sound for less money and some equally voiced internet pundit will state how great their sound is, and ‘they tried better’ (implying they could experience nothing better).

recent world financial crisis and we have relaxed guidelines for official measurements (so new kit can look good on paper without having to sustain the power handling etc (heatsinks cost money))

specs look good, everything works (well) with it, and it is reviewed well (five stars)

who cares about absolute sound quality when good enough is well reviewed.

why a vinyl revival? (cause modern stereo sounds trash and any vinyl will sound analogue; even on a very very budget setup)

most of the above is angry opionated rant, yes… (but SOMEONE HAS TO SAY IT or newbies may not question ‘why is it so’); but needed to get some to think about this stuff.

I am sure it was just convenient coincidence that class D amplification became the new norm at a time when power supplies and heat sinks were lionshare of doing audio RIGHT.

smiles with’
(enjoy the music!!)


Mini toslink to toslink

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All the audiophile friends I had in my home town fall into this category. I don’t think any of them has bought a brand new item in decades.

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My streaming journey started with an Apple TV into a cheap DAC from Amazon. It woke me up to streaming. The DAC was replaced with a Teddy Pardo DAC then I replaced the Apple/DAC with an NDX. I was completely happy with this until I got a cheap NDS/XPS. Eventually replaced the XPS with CD555PS. I would say that my current setup is on a par with my LP12 but the LP12 beats it. If I were to live with something simpler, the NDX would be fine for me. All this was with Spotify 320bps. I am where I am because I had the funds but to be honest, if I had to downsize, I am confident that I could easily live with a more modest setup.

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Ask @Analogmusic . He uses Wim/ Dave combo.


The worst thing about these posts if that I at least have to admit that on some days I hear more or at least as much music on my qb in the kitchen than on the fine nd555 in the lounge. However there is something hugely enjoyable with the big system, but at a cost!

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What do you mean by “at a cost”? You already have the system, so I assume no cost to use?

In my case I have only one system, otherwise we have a couple of little radios, but very poor sound quality (and I don’t generally like listening to radio music). I haven’t heard the Qube, but I’ve heard a Muso, and to me it is not hifi but a glorified (=very good for what it is) boom-box, no substitute at all for a hifi system.

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But very good at playing music. Of course this has to do with your definition of hifi.

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Indeed. When I was first getting into hifi there was a definition/standard at one time (DIN 4500 or 45000, which defined the minimum requirements to be classified as HiFi. Given tge progress of time one would no less, and maybe a tighter standard these days. That said I haven’t compared Muso (or Qube’s) performance against such standard.

As for good at playing music, not if you want real bass from the music you play.

Opportunity cost. The money invested in a high dollar stereo system is an opportunity lost to use that money elsewhere or to be invested.


My query was because from the way if was stated, @Claus already has the big system, so there is no significant cost in using it (but of course the amount of electricity used while playing vs idle is likely slightly greater than Qube).

As for investment, very few, if any, bits of hifi kit can be considered as investment, so if investment is wanted then indeed put the money elsewhere rather than buy hifi.

In the end the the money we spend on sound systems to play music, provides us with relaxation so reduces stress, so I think is money well spent. As many say on these forums, forget the worries about whether or not your system could sound better and just enjoy listening to the music. The fact is any Naim system is going to sound much better than the average.


Everything has an opportunity cost. You insinuated a system already purchased has no cost. It does.

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