Kara (deHavilland) is right
…the prices of high-end audio gear are indeed getting ridiculous.
Somewhere in all the RMAF stuff I talked about how Kara and I had a talk about the high-price of the high-end. I was somewhat a doubter [and wondered if she was talking to me as an audiophile, as the press, as Audio Federation, or as the Audio Note importer.. Yes, we do sell a lot of high-priced gear here :-)].
Personally [and this is MY rant] I find no fault with the $200K Clearaudio Statement turntable, the $180K Focal Grande Utopia EM speakers, or of the prices of the gear we carry, as long as the company has a range of products and has been around for awhile and the company has a quality reputation [hard to quantify this, but…].
As I go through the show report, and look at some of the prices of equipment from brand new companies and equipment from companies that heretofore produced reasonably priced gear that have been struggling in the marketplace – and see price tags that exceed those of comparable equipment from companies that have been around for years, decades, many decades….
… it just makes me wonder. One of these company’s very first email was a 55% off sale direct from the manufacturer.
Is is just open season on audiophiles now?
First you have the ‘the cheaper it is, the better it sounds’ crowd. Fine. This *is* Bizarro World after all, where everything is its opposite.
But are we really going to see people, and ezines of course to suck their life blood, who believe ‘the newer it is, the better it sounds’. Well, maybe we have had this all along…
Maybe that should be ‘the more unknown it is, the better it sounds’. Yep.
Perhaps we should all just tie-dye some Belden power cords, pick a cool name like, oh, PartyWire, and have unscrupulous dealers sell them for $4K. Everybody who is registered here will be a share holder. We’ll no doubt see lots of faux reviewers posting rave reviews of the stuff. Shills [and the golden-ear-challenged] will post how it improved their system on the forums.
Who buys this stuff? That’s what I want to know.
And exactly when did the entire population of this planet go mad?
Who is kidding whom? There’s a recession on. There’s not a lot of buyers out there. Even good used gear in the “reasonable” price range is going unsold unless and until the prices are really cut.
RMAF has never been a good place to sell gear at the lower end, anyway, I am not sure about the high end. So the flood of new vendors surprised me, as well as the participation of a few large companies that had avoided previous shows (because they couldn’t sell anything).
Fortunately, I did not see all the low end gear with high end prices you talk about. I did see that Kara had about doubled the price of her new Triode monos and Triode company from Japan was selling a new 845 at something like 2x their regular prices. But, from what i heard, both products sounded very very good.
Downstairs, too, I was prepared to shell out $2500 for a Zana Deux ZDT head amp until I found out how to fix my old Single Power MPX3, and i will also happily pay the $650 asking price for the Audeze LDS-2 headphones I auditioned when they hit the street.
Calm down, Mac. What’s my point? I just didn’t see much of what you talked about.
Not sure why you think RMAF is not a good place to sell lower end gear. I am going to try to NOT name names, but I know last year [stock market was tanking] was pretty hot for a few rooms of reasonably priced equipment. However, this year the consensus is not as clear.
There is a thread about whether audiophiles bought anything at RMAF on audio circle:
Over-priced-ness is more of a general trend. For example, not to pick on you or Zana Deux but, isn’t $2500 a lot for a head amp from a newish company? Are the days of small boutique companies having to establish themselves before [being successful] charging this much now over and replaced with social community buzz marketing? Can’t tell you how many of these ‘hot’ products [again, not picking on Zana Deax, necessarily, having not heard it] that we have heard that really were not acceptable at any price.
Ex: I see more and more power conditioners in the $7K range. That’s where Sound Applications lived and I am prepared to consider that their product is worth it. We had it here and based on how it is built and its performance, one might consider that product to be statement-level. Now most companies, big and small, have a $7K+ power conditioner [but not PS Audio, +1 for them]. The point is that this is regardless of whether they know anything about power conditioning, or whether their previous products were accepted in the marketplace as playing in this segment of the market, or at this statement-level league.
Some of these may be worth it, I do not know [and in general, we think all power conditioners are detrimental to the sound]. But all of a sudden, putting out something at a statement-level price is commonplace.
There are all sorts of brand new amps and preamp and, to pick on 2 of them – Win Analog this year, Tenor two years ago – and even many no name brands that come out of the gate with amps that cost more than, not just 2 to 3 times the Lamm ML2s, which have stood the test of time as statement level amps, but also more than the Ongaku, also with a pedigree a mile long. It is like someone starting a car factory today, and going up against the best Lexus and BMW has to offer tomorrow, charging even more, and people actually thinking that this is reasonable and competitive.
And we see this with speakers, cables, everything.
I guess the real point is that the fluidity of the high-end audio market is becoming extreme, not just at the low end but also at the very high. One might blame this on the decline of respect for the reviewing community – where they have given so many rave reviews to everything and anything that the audiophile is left with EVERYTHING being great and equal to everything else. There is also a “nothing is better than anything else – it is all in the ear of the beholder” movement which also encourages audiophiles to think everything is on the same level.
My metric is: “Is this a lot better cable, speaker, pre, etc. than Valhalla, Vandy 7, Wilson Sophia, Kharma 3.2, Lamm L2 linestage, etc.” If it is, if you are certain, then great. Even if the company is relatively unknown, support uncertain, resale expected to take a long time, it may be worth it. From our point of view, it IS worth it. But random gear that just costs more? Doesn’t sound as good? Is just new and different? This is just nuts.
Can’t say how many times I was shocked: THEY are charging THIS for THAT? Maybe I am just getting old, but I am sure happy with Lamm barely charging their prices from year to year [who would ever think they would become defacto ‘value-priced’?] and Audio Note, Nordost etc. providing reasonably priced gear as well as, shall we say, extreme?
Thanks for your thoughtfulness, Mac.
Oh, we also think Tri and deHavilland are good products. I did not know Tri had increased the price of that 845 amp – but I hope they stay in the value-priced segment of the market. Odyssey Audio’s system was still just around $8K this year, and Grant Fidelity looks promising, also in the value-priced market segment.
My information comes from a small group of manufacturers’ reps, some of whom did attend attend RMAF ’07, (2 shows ago) and some of whom did not. So, the margin of error is large. Perhaps that trend was reversed at RMAF’08 because one of the very big noshows in ’06,’07, and ’08 did come in 2009. Parenthetically, one of the very big companies that did come in 2007 and with whom I am in contact, did not come in 2009 because of this problem.
Is the ZDT worth $2500? People are willing to pay the price, and so was I, so the answer is yes. Did it cost $2500 to produce and market the last ZDT? No, the market is structured so that Mfrs have pricing power. It is not “classically” a competitive market. How big are the gaps between long-run marginal costs of gear and wholesale prices? Maybe you can answer that.
I was under the impression that the 845 amp was new. I may well be wrong. It is priced close to $7K, which is higher than their other amps. That was my only comment.
On cables. I just bought ONE AN-Vx IC. All the rest er Lexus. My kids tell me I am crazy. What is the difference, between my kids, you and me? Just two things: preferences and income. My son will pay easily $2,000 for a cycle; my starving daughter pays insane prices for climbing ropes and shiny metal things…….
It’s sunny in Denmark. I better skip work today and go down to Audio Consult where the serious stuff is.