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Are bel canto and Emotiva considered 'high-end' ? Peachtree Audio ?

post #1 of 98
Thread Starter 

I'm interested in feedback from those who have spent many thousands on electronics and speakers. This might be more about semantics than reality, but I find it interesting that your product is 'high end' if you say it is ...

 

Chinese manufacture has bought the price of 'entry-level high end' down considerably, but companies like Marantz and Denon have several components up around the 10K mark yet aren't generally considered 'high end'. It seems to be more about the image of 'boutique audio' and the cult of personality around designers. Being able to trace a design philosophy back to an individual seems to be a big part of boutique audio, and the kind of rabid loyalty which has been eroded at the consumer electronics level - at least thats the impression I get. 

 

Thoughts ?

post #2 of 98

Marantz and Denon do have high-end offerings - the former in the "reference" series, the latter in their flagship receivers and multichannel separates.  We don't typically discuss them here, because we are a headphone forum :P 

 

We used to have a stickied thread entitled, "What is high end?" which covered the topics you bring up.  In the end, I think at least 50% of the title "high end" is determined by pricepoint alone, sadly.  Even though it is one of the best headphone amps in existence, very few would call a Dynalo high-end. 

post #3 of 98
Thread Starter 

I agree re 'pricepoint' being the main determinant, but its all relative - when I signed up on Head-Fi I dont remember any dedicated headphone amps over 3K - that figure wouldn't buy you a pair of speaker cables in many high-end speaker systems. The first time I stumbled on the Decware website, I thought Steve's gear was 'expensive' - I've since come to realise what many others charge for a speaker amp built to the same standard  as his Mini Torii. At the other end of the spectrum, Audio-gd gear seems to get more expensive each time I look at their website. A tale of two economies, perhaps ? 

post #4 of 98

Short answer: Bel Canto yes.  Emotiva, Peachtree no.  Despite strong performance within their categories, the latter two have made too many compromises to reach a price point.  Bel Canto, not so much.

 

Long answer:

 

Like many other things, the definition you're looking for has as many answers as people willing to answer the question.  A look through these forums (this one especially), will back this up.

 

Personally, it's always about performance.  Typically that comes at a cost, although there are always exceptions both ways. But with that cost, there comes a certain snob appeal and a sense that just because a good performing product is within the price range of a much larger population, that it is somehow not "high end enough". Is the sound of a Soulution 745 SACD player sixty times better than that of a Oppo bdp-93, like the price would indicate?  Of course not.  Yet despite the rave reviews, many people do not think of Oppo as high end.  Why?  Well, for one thing, it's mass produced and mass marketed.  Another, for all its industry leading technology, there are still several compromises made by Oppo that could easily be improved (as evidenced by several companies who take the exact Oppo boards and chipsets, load them in a new case with bigger transformers, fancier LCD display and a new boutique faceplate and a 5x price tag) and only then does it meet some people's "high end" criteria.  But do these add-ons mean better performance?  I can't personally answer that, but from what I've read, not really.  Performance-wise Oppo is pretty much the definition of excellence regardless of sticker price but you will still get some who say it's not high-end.  Not me though.

 

The head-fi industry has experienced a sea change since 2009.  It is one of the few market segments to experience growth despite the general economic downturn.  Why?  Again the answers will vary with the answerer, but to me it is that the price-to-performance ratio was still well within the range of mass market consumers until just recently.  Of course that is now rapidly changing and the stratification is occurring in spades with cans, sources and add-ons.  Is the non-limited edition $10k head fi amp(s) coming?  Sure.  Someone will build it, because someone will pay for it.  Just look at people asking for custom built T2s, which everyone agrees is only commercially viable if the sticker price is north of $10k.

post #5 of 98
Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

when I signed up on Head-Fi I dont remember any dedicated headphone amps over 3K...

 

There were plenty of expensive HP amps available in 2009... now, if we were to talk about the year I signed on, then yeah, there were relatively few... Anyway, back to the original topic, Bel Canto is generally considered to be high-end, Emotiva and Peachtree Audio, on the other hand, are not.

post #6 of 98

If Emotiva is considered "high-end" then that term has no meaning. Emotiva is about as entry level as it gets, below even brands like Rotel, NAD, and Cambridge.

 

Bel Canto is what I would consider to be "mid-fi". Some high-end brands like Joseph Audio like to showcase their products with Bel Canto, but I don't really think of the CD2 as a "high-end" CD player or the REF1000 as a "high-end" amplifier. The Bel Canto components sell on their simplicity and their practicality more than absolute performance and prestige.

 

When I think of a high-end CD player, I think of EMM, Zanden, dCS, Esoteric, etc. For amps, I would describe Gryphon, Boulder, Levinson, Vitus, VTL, Pass Labs as high-end.

 

If you consider ~$3K Bel Cantos as high-end components, then you have to create another category above that for the stuff that costs 10X as much - "super high-end" or "ultra high-end".

 

You double posted this thread BTW, you may want to ask to have the other one deleted.


Edited by DaveBSC - 4/24/12 at 9:23pm
post #7 of 98
Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveBSC View Post

 

If you consider ~$3K Bel Cantos as high-end components, then you have to create another category above that for the stuff that costs 10X as much - "super high-end" or "ultra high-end".

 

I see where you're coming from, but the thing is, the term highend has no predetermined definition.

 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveBSC View Post

 

When I think of a high-end CD player, I think of EMM, Zanden, dCS, Esoteric, etc. For amps, I would describe Gryphon, Boulder, Levinson, Vitus, VTL, Pass Labs as high-end.

 

Then I suppose the Metronome Technologie's Kalista Ultimate SE CD Transport is super super highend then? Another example would be the Ferrari 458 italia. Most people would consider it to be a supercar, but for someone like Simon Cowell, it's only an entry level vehicle.

post #8 of 98

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jenneth View Post

 

I see where you're coming from, but the thing is, the term highend has no predetermined definition.

 

Then I suppose the Metronome Technologie's Kalista Ultimate SE CD Transport is super super highend then? Another example would be the Ferrari 458 italia. Most people would consider it to be a supercar, but for someone like Simon Cowell, it's only an entry level vehicle.

 

When I think of a high-end brand, I think of a relatively small operation, prestigious name, and products that hit the five figure mark. The Sony SS-AR1 at $27K/pr is definitely a high-end speaker, but Sony is not a high-end brand. Selling $27K speakers is not their business, they just produce products like the AR1 every decade or so because they can. If you say to someone "I just spent $27K on some Sony speakers" they will probably be very surprised that Sony even makes something like that, or they'll think you bought a warehouse full of the $200/pr stuff that Sony typically sells.

 

Similarly, Sony produced the highest-end dynamic headphone in history, but I wouldn't call them a high-end headphone brand either. They aren't in the business of selling R10s, that was an AR1 "because we can" type of product.

 

The size of someone's personal fortune or their ability to easily purchase an expensive product has no bearing on whether it's "high-end" or not - your 458 Italia comparison doesn't really make sense. An entry level vehicle is a Toyota Yaris, and that applies whether the buyer is Bill Gates or is homeless. The 458 earns super car status because of its performance, and to a certain extent because of its prestige and its price. A Radical SR8 will easily outrun the Ferrari and beat it on any race track, but its not really a super car. Nobody is going to pull up in Monte Carlo's Casino Square in a Radical.


Edited by DaveBSC - 4/25/12 at 12:54am
post #9 of 98

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveBSC View Post

 

The size of someone's personal fortune or their ability to easily purchase an expensive product has no bearing on whether it's "high-end" or not - your 458 Italia comparison doesn't really make sense. An entry level vehicle is a Toyota Yaris, and that applies whether the buyer is Bill Gates or is homeless.

 


I respectfully disagree with that statement. A Toyota Yaris is about $13,000. Sure, people in first world countries can easily afford that, but most people in a country like China can't (or your homeless example). It became a luxury item for them. The term highend is a relative term, just like value. It changes with time and the perceptive values that governs our society at that time. A 458 Italia isn't highend, at least not when it compares to what the absolute best is out there.


Edited by jenneth - 4/25/12 at 2:53am
post #10 of 98
Thread Starter 

I'm inclined to go with the argument that if a component is mass-produced and mass-marketed, its not high-end. That makes sense to me - TEAC might own Esoteric, but they understand that you don't sell 5-figure CDPs and amplifiers to the same people who buy TEAC's mass-produced electronics. B&O strikes me as a special case - their gear might be expensive and hand-made, but its rarely mentioned in the same sentence as Krell, Meridian, Martin Logan and Levinson. I'll leave it to others to contemplate why that might be the case.  wink.gif

 

Whether we like it or not, exclusivity is also a big part of it - in trying to entice new customers with entry-level kit made in China, I suspect that some of the established names put quite a few noses out of joint. I wasn't into audio when Marantz were building classic tube amps, but they seem to have lost loyal customers when they moved to cheaper solid state gear - always happy to hear otherwise. 

post #11 of 98

I just searched for it, and here is the original definition of what Summit Fi was supposed to be, noting that it was posted mid-way through 2008 when a crapload of stuff we have now didn't exist:

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vcoheda View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by wowerView Post
I wonder if an arbitrary number could be selected for the high-end number. Say $1k? Would it function? I mean, I don't see the whole thing melting down if an arbitrary number is selected.
to me, it means: HP1000, PS1, K1000, 010, R10, L3000, as well as HE60, HE90, O2; and then amps around $2K or higher and sources about 4K retail and more.

as for general criteria, if you're not sure, it probably isn't.
 
I don't know if it was the original sticky thread, but I found one titled "Discussion of what is high-end"

 

post #12 of 98

Isn't high end these day's determined by its price? Rather then performance to price ratio.

post #13 of 98
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DefQon View Post

Isn't high end these day's determined by its price? Rather then performance to price ratio.

 

Fine, but do you want to put a figure on that ? Is Cary Audio's XCiter DAC 'high-end', even though it costs less than 2K USD ? Their CAD 221 will set you back 22K AUD - even their SLP-05 preamp is over 9K - at a time when our dollar is usually several cents above parity with the USD.  In my postcode, 22K will still buy you a new car with aircon and tinted windows ..... luxury, sheer luxury. biggrin.gif

post #14 of 98

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

 

 

Fine, but do you want to put a figure on that ? Is Cary Audio's XCiter DAC 'high-end', even though it costs less than 2K USD ? Their CAD 221 will set you back 22K AUD - even their SLP-05 preamp is over 9K - at a time when our dollar is usually several cents above parity with the USD.  In my postcode, 22K will still buy you a new car with aircon and tinted windows ..... luxury, sheer luxury. biggrin.gif

 

Well generally for the average person, for example in this case since we are talking about audio, to me and most others a headphone, amplifier, dac or cables that are over or in excess of $1k is and can be classified as high-end. For example, my LCD2 and HD800 are retail $1k and 1.5k and they are classified as high-end, but it may not seem as high-end compared to a SR-009 or a HE90 headphone which cost 5-9 times as much. Even if a set of monoblock amp's that cost $10 or maybe 20k there is no such thing as super-uber high end at the end of the day, but still classified as high-end same as its cheaper counterparts in the $1k + category. 

 

I guess high-end to some people can be justified at different price points, this is where you include factors such as performance/price ratio, if product a cost x amount of $ but is 5% less in performance to product b which costs 10x more, then that will be considered a giant killer item and certain people classify it as high-end (pretty broad in my opinion). Another example is seeing amp's on ebay that only costs $300-400 and be classified as high-end, to me its mid-end possibly because I have an amp that costs twice as much and outshines it (possibly not, but who know's).

 

Of course $1k isn't high end for all items, if this figure is and was applied to smaller items such as headphones and amp's then yes, but if priced on bigger items such as TV's and cars, then no. Pretty objective at the end of the day, whether you have the luxury and money to spend on expensive things or not.

 

NOTE: Sorry if I'm causing a bit of confusion here or not making sense, its getting late and I just finished writing a whole lot of reports due for tomorrows lecture and the caffiene hasn;t helped much.


Edited by DefQon - 4/25/12 at 5:48am
post #15 of 98

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jenneth View Post

I respectfully disagree with that statement. A Toyota Yaris is about $13,000. Sure, people in first world countries can easily afford that, but most people in a country like China can't (or your homeless example). It became a luxury item for them. The term highend is a relative term, just like value. It changes with time and the perceptive values that governs our society at that time. A 458 Italia isn't highend, at least not when it compares to what the absolute best is out there.

 

So your saying that because a Yaris or an even cheaper Nissan Versa might be luxuries to some people, those are now luxury cars? If you decide that every term is relative and up to the individual than those terms lose all meaning. The 458 is an entry level Ferrari but it's still very much a high-end car sold by a high-end brand.

 

Gryphon, Rockport, Boulder, etc also sell entry level products within their respective ranges, but those products are still high-end within the industry as a whole as are the brands that sell them.

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