Do you believe that our hobby is splitting?

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
One of the best examples was the comparisons we did between your Spendor BC1s, your ESL-63s and the Harbeths. Never has progress been more evident.
Absolutely. The BC-1s, widely regarded in vintage circles of being an unmatched legend, were undeniably embarrassed by the Harbeths... if one was to look at them strictly from overall performance/sonic presentation and not thinking of them as a historical loudspeaker landmark. The gulf between the ESL-63s and the SHL-5s was much smaller, but the ESL-63 needed a radically different approach totally outside of the mainstream it was contemporary to, to achieve those results. The Harbeth did it with an approach not unlike the BC-1s, just with 40 years of learning attached to it.

So the BC-1 "idea" caught up to the ESL-63, and even surpassed it, but had to become nearly something else entirely to do so. Only the 2 cubic foot thin-walled cabinet, and tweeter/super-tweeter/woofer ideas carried on. Maybe things are plateauing a bit, as the newest SHL-5+XD aren't -that- much different than my nearly 10-year-old SHL-5s, but I wouldn't say mine are better. They're just not as far behind.

As for my BC-1s, the woofers had been sent to England and serviced by Derek Hughes himself and the crossovers had been redone. They were as healthy as a pair of mid '70s BC-1s could get. They were what they were, and they wren't bad speakers but they were by no means unmatched today. They weren't even unmatched in my little house.
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
Remember, in the real world “giant killers” are rare-to-non-existent, and you get what you pay for.

BUT ALSO, much of the cost of high-end audio is wrapped up in bling and marketing, and escalating price tags are, generously, subject to diminishing returns.

In summary, anyone who spends less than me is a deluded dreamer, and, by contrast, anyone who spends more than me is a deluded dreamer.
 
I think the used market for high end gear offers some incredible deals where in contrast vintage gear can sometimes be inflated by fanboy hype. Some incredible modern gear from the 90's and 2000's can be had for dimes on the dollar, used, once the middlemen have been sliced out by the initial sale.
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
Absolutely. The BC-1s, widely regarded in vintage circles of being an unmatched legend, were undeniably embarrassed by the Harbeths... if one was to look at them strictly from overall performance/sonic presentation and not thinking of them as a historical loudspeaker landmark. The gulf between the ESL-63s and the SHL-5s was much smaller, but the ESL-63 needed a radically different approach totally outside of the mainstream it was contemporary to, to achieve those results. The Harbeth did it with an approach not unlike the BC-1s, just with 40 years of learning attached to it.

So the BC-1 "idea" caught up to the ESL-63, and even surpassed it, but had to become nearly something else entirely to do so. Only the 2 cubic foot thin-walled cabinet, and tweeter/super-tweeter/woofer ideas carried on. Maybe things are plateauing a bit, as the newest SHL-5+XD aren't -that- much different than my nearly 10-year-old SHL-5s, but I wouldn't say mine are better. They're just not as far behind.

As for my BC-1s, the woofers had been sent to England and serviced by Derek Hughes himself and the crossovers had been redone. They were as healthy as a pair of mid '70s BC-1s could get. They were what they were, and they wren't bad speakers but they were by no means unmatched today. They weren't even unmatched in my little house.
And the interesting thing was, the Spendor and the Harbeth presented music in a similar way. You could tell that the goal was the same, and a fan of one would be a fan of the other. Except, The Harbeth was just astonishingly better at it.
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
I'm running into a bit of a modern/vintage divide. Sort of. I've once again dug out my Leben C300 tube integrated with is 15wpc. A 'new' amp, though its sensibilities are old. The problem I'm running into is that I prefer the sound of modern speakers but the amp likes the efficiency and simple crossovers of older speakers. There are some modern options but they're not plentiful. Devore, the SEAS A26 kit, maybe Klipch. I actually really like the look of the current Heresy IV and have read it solves some drawbacks of the older ones.... ? I'll audition them this week if I can. So a new/old speaker for my new/old amp.
Zu?
 
I think you are looking at it the wrong way. For the same level of investment, people can now get much better quality audio gear then they could in 1964. All that is happened is that a very high end of boutique goods has popped up at silly prices. If one is interested in the reproduction of music, then these are the good old days. If, however, you want to impress others with your investment in audio, then today it is much harder to reach that pinnacle.

As far as that goes, why should I care what anyone else drinks, drives or listens to? There will always be someone prettier, richer or slimmer then I. I can worry about that, which I can’t do anything about, or I can just go on living my life and making the choices I want to make, with the resources I have available to me.
I didn't quite mean it that way.

No argument that Hi Fi for the common man has improved, I only meant that back in the day, "everyman" could dip his toes into Hi Fi at its highest end if he were so inclined. (Similar to big baller wines.) Now, that market segment is only within reach of a smaller and smaller number of hobbyists.

"As far as that goes, why should I care what anyone else drinks, drives or listens to? There will always be someone prettier, richer or slimmer then I. I can worry about that, which I can’t do anything about, or I can just go on living my life and making the choices I want to make, with the resources I have available to me."

I didn't mean it that way, either.

As someone who is into Hi Fi gear, or wine...the upper echelon of the hobby has headed out over the price horizon, which is a difference compared to the past. A split, as the thread title asks. It used to be that an average person could buy a fabulous First Growth Bordeaux or Grandest Cru Burgundy and experience the top end of the hobby. Now, there is a split that exists where this is not an option that used to be available, if one were so inclined.

No doubt, today's cheap gear is pretty great, better than 'average gear' in the past. It's that the leap between 'average' in the market and the top prices in the market have been growing apart at an accelerating rate. I'm old enough to remember when "aspirational gear" was potentially attainable, now (maybe my own fault) not so much!

I didn't mean this to sound argumentative, just reminiscing about days past! 🍷.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I didn't quite mean it that way.

No argument that Hi Fi for the common man has improved, I only meant that back in the day, "everyman" could dip his toes into Hi Fi at its highest end if he were so inclined. (Similar to big baller wines.) Now, that market segment is only within reach of a smaller and smaller number of hobbyists.

"As far as that goes, why should I care what anyone else drinks, drives or listens to? There will always be someone prettier, richer or slimmer then I. I can worry about that, which I can’t do anything about, or I can just go on living my life and making the choices I want to make, with the resources I have available to me."

I didn't mean it that way, either.

As someone who is into Hi Fi gear, or wine...the upper echelon of the hobby has headed out over the price horizon, which is a difference compared to the past. A split, as the thread title asks. It used to be that an average person could buy a fabulous First Growth Bordeaux or Grandest Cru Burgundy and experience the top end of the hobby. Now, there is a split that exists where this is not an option that used to be available, if one were so inclined.

No doubt, today's cheap gear is pretty great, better than 'average gear' in the past. It's that the leap between 'average' in the market and the top prices in the market have been growing apart at an accelerating rate. I'm old enough to remember when "aspirational gear" was potentially attainable, now (maybe my own fault) not so much!

I didn't mean this to sound argumentative, just reminiscing about days past! 🍷.
That's absolutely true, that there's been a segment of this hobby and pretty much every other pursuit, that is at a level unheard of, price-wise, in the past. This phenomenon of the 'veblen goods' or whatever they should be called (things that sell -because- they're expensive) has taken on a life in everything from fashion to cars to, yes, wines. Usually when I talk about hi-end audio I just ignore it, because I've heard enough of it to suggest that much of it is audio jewelry with little performance-wise over much less expensive wares. But that 'much less expensive' level is still beyond what I can afford. So maybe performance peaks at $20,000 preamps instead of $150,000 preamps, but its still the price of a new small car.

But I think that the average person can get better sound today than in the '70s with the same level of expenditure, apples to apples. That if you drop $2000 into a moderately powered UK integrated amp, it'll give you better sound than a monster receiver that, adjusted for inflation, was more expensive. It's just that there's now a level above that, and a level about that, and... then some pretty silly over the top stuff, but whatever, some people like to spend their money on their hobbies, and they have more money than I do. There are diminishing returns, for sure. And I think things just flat out stop improving well before the price hits its peak.

That that gear exists only occasionally annoys me- when its touted by magazines as a 'must have if you really want the good stuff'. There's nothing that plays music but costs as much as a house in today's have-and-have-not economy that should ever be touted by a magazine targeted to the average person that should ever be put out there as a 'must have, if...' without a more thorough explanation than the fact that some wined-and-dined-by-the-industry schlub listened to it and said so. (My opinion... slightly informed by a few glances behind the curtain).
 

JoeThePop

Known member
That's absolutely true, that there's been a segment of this hobby and pretty much every other pursuit, that is at a level unheard of, price-wise, in the past. This phenomenon of the 'veblen goods' or whatever they should be called (things that sell -because- they're expensive) has taken on a life in everything from fashion to cars to, yes, wines. Usually when I talk about hi-end audio I just ignore it, because I've heard enough of it to suggest that much of it is audio jewelry with little performance-wise over much less expensive wares. But that 'much less expensive' level is still beyond what I can afford. So maybe performance peaks at $20,000 preamps instead of $150,000 preamps, but its still the price of a new small car.

But I think that the average person can get better sound today than in the '70s with the same level of expenditure, apples to apples. That if you drop $2000 into a moderately powered UK integrated amp, it'll give you better sound than a monster receiver that, adjusted for inflation, was more expensive. It's just that there's now a level above that, and a level about that, and... then some pretty silly over the top stuff, but whatever, some people like to spend their money on their hobbies, and they have more money than I do. There are diminishing returns, for sure. And I think things just flat out stop improving well before the price hits its peak.

That that gear exists only occasionally annoys me- when its touted by magazines as a 'must have if you really want the good stuff'. There's nothing that plays music but costs as much as a house in today's have-and-have-not economy that should ever be touted by a magazine targeted to the average person that should ever be put out there as a 'must have, if...' without a more thorough explanation than the fact that some wined-and-dined-by-the-industry schlub listened to it and said so. (My opinion... slightly informed by a few glances behind the curtain).

Yep, I agree. The "ultra-high-end” today is designed for today’s consumerism. Super exotic materials, oddly shaped speaker cabinets that I’m sure are very labor intensive to build, shiny bling on amps and turntables, and frankly probably a huge markup just because the ultra-high-end is not interested in offering value for the price. The implication is that you are buying something that only a few can afford. It’s an exclusive club.
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
Yep, I agree. The "ultra-high-end” today is designed for today’s consumerism. Super exotic materials, oddly shaped speaker cabinets that I’m sure are very labor intensive to build, shiny bling on amps and turntables, and frankly probably a huge markup just because the ultra-high-end is not interested in offering value for the price. The implication is that you are buying something that only a few can afford. It’s an exclusive club.
It also usually takes many years of a designers, or group of designers, time to come up with a design like that. How do you amortize your hours over a product that, hopefully, will sell in the double digits?

I used to spend lots of hours of every week in a very exclusive, very expensive, high end audio shop. I got to know a number of guys who had Well Into six figures into their systems, and to a man, yes they were all men, each one sweated and fussed over every purchase as much as the most hardcore havenite would. Each was a serious music lover, and every system was put together simply to expand their enjoyment of music. None of them were particularly flashy/fancy people. Mostly guys in their 50s who had done well in life, and were now enjoying the spoils of their labours.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Along those lines there's nothing cheap about how the very expensive YG Acoustics speakers are made, for one example. I've had the owner/designer walk me through them one on one after hours in a store (very interesting and nice man, FWIW). I just didn't come away thinking that all of that was worthwhile when some of it seemed to be reinventing the wheel in a way that made the wheel more complicated than it needed to be. Yes you can mill the wheel's rim out of one giant solid block of aluminum and it makes a nice talking point but does the performance of the car improve? Those speakers were one of my favorites at a show, but a pair of speakers 1/10th the price tied with them. They're made in VERY small numbers in a very materials and labor intensive way, almost like fine handmade mechanical watches in that regard. It's what they are as much as what they do. That appeals to some people with deep deep pockets, maybe in the way a holographic soundstage appeals to me.

But I think you can equal the sound of them for much less...if sound is what you're after. And I'm not really judging those who want something unique or just plainly expensive.

BUT...I will add, that I hold a lot of ultra-high-end gear in less regard than YG Acoustics, whom I do respect for what and how they do things.
 

JoeThePop

Known member
It also usually takes many years of a designers, or group of designers, time to come up with a design like that. How do you amortize your hours over a product that, hopefully, will sell in the double digits?

I used to spend lots of hours of every week in a very exclusive, very expensive, high end audio shop. I got to know a number of guys who had Well Into six figures into their systems, and to a man, yes they were all men, each one sweated and fussed over every purchase as much as the most hardcore havenite would. Each was a serious music lover, and every system was put together simply to expand their enjoyment of music. None of them were particularly flashy/fancy people. Mostly guys in their 50s who had done well in life, and were now enjoying the spoils of their labours.
And I don't begrudge them spending the money how they wish. And I'm not implying that there is not some fine engineering that goes into the design for sound. But being designed for the ultra-high-end market segment means a lot of extraneous stuff that I'm sure does nothing to add to the level of performance. Unless of course I believe in their marketing claims.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
And I don't begrudge them spending the money how they wish. And I'm not implying that there is not some fine engineering that goes into the design for sound. But being designed for the ultra-high-end market segment means a lot of extraneous stuff that I'm sure does nothing to add to the level of performance. Unless of course I believe in their marketing claims.
That last part is what gets me. I’d be totally fine if it were sold as what it is, but the extravagance is sold in ways that suggest it’s beneficial to the sound. Just sell it as craftsmanship and bling. I guess in this way I’m more annoyed at the audio magazine industry than the gear industry. They parrot obvious marketing so gullibly that it almost becomes parody.
 
For serious listening, I'm out of the vintage space altogether. I do have my 90's vintage Meadowlark/Sony system hooked up to the TV downstairs, but while it does get almost daily use, any serious music listening is done upstairs with the main system.

The other side is, how do you define vintage? Is there a cut off line?

Finally, of the people I know in the real world, they are almost all either new gear folks, or vintage gear folks. Almost no crossover.
Todays' "State of the Art" tomorrows "Vintage" (Parasound Hint 6 and Phase Linear 2000 preamp with Caver 4.0 t amp, lovem both)
 
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prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
And I don't begrudge them spending the money how they wish. And I'm not implying that there is not some fine engineering that goes into the design for sound. But being designed for the ultra-high-end market segment means a lot of extraneous stuff that I'm sure does nothing to add to the level of performance. Unless of course I believe in their marketing claims.
But name me a luxury product that doesn’t include “extraneous stuff that I’m sure does nothing to add to the level of performance”. If I was spending $50,000. $100,000 or $500,000 on an Audio product. I would expect it to be beautifully made. I wouldn’t want a killer sounding, expensive speaker in my living room covered with grey carpeting, or even synthetic black ash.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
But name me a luxury product that doesn’t include “extraneous stuff that I’m sure does nothing to add to the level of performance”. If I was spending $50,000. $100,000 or $500,000 on an Audio product. I would expect it to be beautifully made. I wouldn’t want a killer sounding, expensive speaker in my living room covered with grey carpeting, or even synthetic black ash.
But it’s sold as if it’s better sounding not just better looking. And I don’t think a lot of it is, after a point.
 
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