There's a tipping point where this question needs to be asked the other way round. When you're starting out in hifi, and each of your main components costs say a couple of hundred bucks, then $1k spent on cables would be really stupid.
But say you've got a high end system where each main component costs $10k, but with stock cables. And you want the best bang from the $1k you have to spend. Then you'd be crazy IMO to not spend that on carefully chosen cables, compared to say replacing your $10k amp with an $11k amp.
Most headfiers probably have equipment values somewhere in between these extremes, and therein lies the fun, or maybe frustration, in deciding what is the next change that will give the best improvement in SQ.
After years of being a skeptic, and forever being surprised at what the best bang for buck turned out to be at various stages of my journey, I've given up trying to apply scientific logic to any decision - I now treat every single new candidate as a black box, whether it's a headphone, cable, tube, fuse etc. Each item is treated as a black box that is judged purely on whether I could get better SQ if I bought a different black box for the same outlay. If a $1k fuse gave me better SQ than a $1k headphones, then I'd buy the fuse (on reflection, even I would struggle to come to terms with that particular example ).
I can't disagree with anything you have said.
Firstly I can't comment on 10k items of audio kit... That's about what my car is worth, although I did drop over £4k on a TV. Other than that one of my 5.1 speaker package's cost around £1.5k and it's down hill from there.
But I would imagine the difference between a 10k amp and 11k amp is potentially not significant..... I would also suggest that potentially the difference between a 2k amp and 10k amp may not be significant at times.
Your black box philosophy is the absolute best way to buy A/V gear IMO.... Just in my and the people i know's circumstance it's never been cables that warranted any upgrade.
Honestly though, If one day I hear a cable make a significant difference (or any difference at all.) and it is feasible for me to to add it to my gear then for sure I would be willing to drop serious (value respective to me.) cash on such an item.
I am however, yet to hear a cable make any difference (so long as it is fit for purpose.) also one thing I know for damn sure is that cables can't improve the signal they carry, the ABSOLUTE best a cable can ever hope to do is output a true representation of the signal that was put into it. Does it take a 5k cable to do that? I don't think so.... Does it take a £500 cable to do that? Not for me. I manage to do it with some self made jobbies that I dress up in techflex etc for vanity reasons yet still only cost me a few ££££ a set.
YMMV as they say, I would however love to be proved wrong. Does anyone have a 10K+ system and fancy letting me bring my DIY cables round for a test against their exotics?
Edited by ValeTudoGuy - 5/11/13 at 3:41pm