Cost Balance Formula
Mar 19, 2002 at 6:45 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 17

jopi

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Hi everybody,

I wonder, what do you guys think is a good cost balance for all your stereo gear. Let's assume for the sake of the argument that all equipment is worth what it costs, i.e. a $2,000 amp is a $1,000 better than a $1,000 amp.

I'll make a start:
I think a single source with speaker amp should cost about the same as speakers. Headphones with headphone amp gives you ten times the value as speakers. Cables should be about 10% of your total cost.
More formal:
Single Source + Speaker Amp = Speakers
10 * (Headphones + Headphone Amp) = Speakers
10% of Whole Enchilada = Cables

What do you guys recommend?
 
Mar 19, 2002 at 12:36 PM Post #2 of 17

setmenu

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Jopi
Hell thats a can of worms you have opened up!
You should get the BEST you can afford of each component,but
sometimes a 5k amp will sound at its best with 2k speakers etc.
Good cables should never be underestimated and therefore do
not limit the buget on those cos they are just wires.
I suppose pound for pound speakers should consume more money as they contain mechanical parts etc and cost more than circuit boards to build[not always though!].


So in my view set a rough buget for all, and start auditioning various units you like or recomended ones.
Thats bound to drive anybody round the twist, all those decicisions.
Just read some of the threads here about people making their minds up or not as the case may be!

Setmenu
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Mar 19, 2002 at 6:13 PM Post #3 of 17

dngl

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I wouldn't bother using formulas. Make a budget, then buy stuff and try it out (use Amex Blue so you can return anything you buy). Keep what works well together. I tried out a whole bunch of stuff and ended up with a $400 source, a $400 amp, and $100 cables... and it fit my criteria perfectly. Audition, audition, audition.

I'm probably going to forget some, but these are the really good deals in CD players (IMO): Cambridge D500 SE, sony SACD players

amps: melos, ZOTL (I haven't heard ZOTL, but check the archives for reviews), Maxed Out Home w/ 15% headfier discount.

For cables, I would only use DIY shark- they're amazing.

Anyone else care to expand on my list?
 
Mar 19, 2002 at 6:31 PM Post #4 of 17

bootman

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A set formula is rough.
I've heard systems with $200 source and $700 cables that sounded killer!
Once you get into really high end gear system matching becomes very important. (especially with cables)
I agree with Jon, audition a lot of components.
(its the fun part of the hobby)
With headphone amps I am almost to the point that the more you spend (more expensive amps) the more you tend to get out of them. (that has been the trend so far as equipment I have actually heard)
This is not always the case with more expensive headphones!
 
Mar 19, 2002 at 6:41 PM Post #5 of 17

Audio Redneck

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My formula goes something like this:

$S => $MC
$S <= $MH/2
$S = ($C1+$C2+...$CN)
$Cn = $DP*LF

Where:
- $ is Replacement Value at time of calculation OR Cost at time of Purchase (once purchased, Cost is no longer a valid factor description as some Components are purchased below Value or gain Value, while others lose Value over time.)
- $S is Value of the Stereo in total (may be multiple systems)
- $MC is the Value of My Car (not Wife Car)
- $MH is the Value of My House
- $CN is the Value of individual Components
- $DP is one days pay at the time of calculation
- LF is Life Factor: the number of days of my life I am willing to give to obtain the desired Cn

Beyond this, I second Jon and Bootman.

wink.gif
 
Mar 20, 2002 at 9:07 AM Post #8 of 17

kelly

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I've posted this before to some extent but my general feeling is that people spend too much of their money on speakers.

The formula "spend twice as much on speakers" derrives directly from the sales drones who get a 400% markup on speakers that are taking up way too much space in inventory.

I have heard $20k CD player and $10k of amp feeding $5k of speaker that sounded phenomenol.

Of course, I'm not in that league quite yet.

Let me put it another way. Let's say you spend a lot on speakers. The speakers are really neutral and transparent. So what do they reveal? A nasty harsh digital sound. Let's take the opposite scenario. You have an awesome source and because your speakers are a little lacking, you can't quite hear all of the detail the source is capable of providing. I suppose I'm far more tolerant of the latter scenario.

One other support for my argument is that technology has REALLY moved in the last few years. If your CD player is four or five years old, upgrading that now is very cost effective. The ART DI/O I have is pretty incredible for its price but even if you overlook that fluke, there are tons of other good deals on DACs and newer CD players. A lot of people unfairly review the new DACs and CD players to be "better than a $40k rig I heard" but of course, the $40k rig was assembled four years ago and much has changed since then. By contrast, the technology and cost per increment in improvement in speakers hasn't really changed that much in the last few years.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 4:57 AM Post #9 of 17

Dusty Chalk

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Here's one I used to do:

$(eBn+1) == $(total) - sum($eB0 + $eB1 + $eB2 + ... + $eBn)

Where

$(eBx) is the maximum amount of bid on my xth eBay auction, and

$(total) == the amount of money I had.

BTW, this will lead to...

$(total) == 0

Very quickly.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 5:35 AM Post #10 of 17

shivohum

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Quote:

Let's say you spend a lot on speakers. The speakers are really neutral and transparent. So what do they reveal? A nasty harsh digital sound. Let's take the opposite scenario. You have an awesome source and because your speakers are a little lacking, you can't quite hear all of the detail the source is capable of providing.


I'm afraid that this is an argument looking only at concocted extremes. I could just as easily argue it the other way. "Let's say you spend a lot on your source. The source is really neutral and transparent. But the speakers distort the sound and transform it into something nasty and harsh. Let's take the opposite scenario. You have awesome speakers, but because your source is a little lacking, you can't quite hear all of the detail the recording is capable of providing."

The fact is that both speakers and sources can and do distort sound. Good speakers and sources, at any price level, will commit primarily errors of omission and will press upon the listener the minimum possible amount of unpleasantness.

Quote:

One other support for my argument is that technology has REALLY moved in the last few years. ... By contrast, the technology and cost per increment in improvement in speakers hasn't really changed that much in the last few years.


It may be a different ball game with analog, but let's assume you're talking here about digital, which is a fair assumption since you mentioned the DIO.

Your points here are an excellent argument for spending more on speakers and less on digital sources. The differences between lower-cost digital sources and higher-cost ones are nowhere near where they once were. The gap is continuing to narrow as we speak, since digital technology continues to allow people to get more and more for less and less. Great speakers, on the other hand, require great materials, build quality, and engineering -- things which are advancing at a much slower pace than digital technology.

As a practical matter, these trends have translated into a much higher bang for the buck from expensive speakers than for expensive digital sources, and this is only going to be more the case as time goes by. Expensive speakers, because of their currently slow evolution, are also more appealing because they will retain their value better over the long term.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 8:06 AM Post #11 of 17

kelly

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shivo

You make some excellent arguments but I'd like to clarify a couple of points I failed to make the first time through.

In my opinion, fairly flat neutral speakers can be had relatively inexpensively in the way of studio monitor type designs. Yamaha makes a pair of speakers that are rather popular, for example. In my opinion, if you had $3000 to spend total, spending over $2000 on the source and less than $1000 on these type of studio monitors would sound much better than deciding to stick with an older CD player or buying one of the ~$300-500 cd players that a LOT of people here at HeadFi own and pairing them with $2000+ speakers.

I'm not retracting my opinions of the ART DI/O. The ART is a fluke. It's an excellent value and if you already have an older source with a digital out, this is an easy way to get your source up to something less harsh sounding. I'd still only consider it a stop gap to getting something better (or at least getting the ART upgrades from Bolder) but it's certainly made my listening more pleasurable while I figured that out.

Your points about speakers retaining their value due to the technology changing more slowly is completely accurate. However, when we strive for quality, we are often dispositioned from making the best investments. My arguments were in terms of what represents a good value in sound quality. If investment is of a great concern (ie, if your'e afraid you'll want another new source in a couple of years whereas you'd hang onto a pair of speakers for 5-10 years), then of course the speakers are going to be the better investment, but better audio quality in the meantime is the opportunity cost for that investment.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 8:39 AM Post #12 of 17

zowie

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Garbage in, garbage out. Yeah, bad speakers can mask a good source. But if you don't at least start with a good source, then following it with good amps, wires, and speakers is just a waste (pending a source upgrade).
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 5:34 PM Post #13 of 17

shivohum

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Quote:

In my opinion, fairly flat neutral speakers can be had relatively inexpensively in the way of studio monitor type designs. ... In my opinion, if you had $3000 to spend total, spending over $2000 on the source and less than $1000 on these type of studio monitors would sound much better than deciding to stick with an older CD player or buying one of the ~$300-500 cd players that a LOT of people here at HeadFi own and pairing them with $2000+ speakers.


Unfortunately, I haven't had too much experience with studio monitors, so I can't comment on them. But with hi-fi speakers, it seems like $2000 definitely buys you considerably more than $1000 in speakers.

So how about a $1000 source and $2000 speakers? I think that there are some really excellent $1000 digital sources out there. Would you really rather have $1000 in speakers coupled to a $2000 source than vice-versa?

I guess it comes down to where you think the point of diminishing returns is for speakers vs. sources. I think digital sources hit that point very fast. I find it hard to believe that, given a $1000 source and a $1000 speaker system, that you would rather spend $1000 more on source than on speakers.

Quote:

The ART is a fluke.


Is it? Before that the MSB Link DAC came out and people said that it was a giant killer. Now the ART comes out and it's even cheaper, and people love it. Some have compared it to DACs that cost thousands of dollars. Admittedly, some of it is likely hype but I think that the fact is that the $4000 digital sources really are not that much better than the $400 digital sources (when comparing the best of each price class). $4000 speakers, on the other hand, are really much much better than $400 speakers.

In my experience, when you improve a digital source, you get a smoother sound, perhaps more dynamic, perhaps a bit more detailed. When you improve speakers, the improvements (or perhaps just changes) are much more powerful.

Of course I admit that there is a point when you can't make a noticeable improvement in speakers without spending much more, and then any extra upgrade money should go to the source, among other things. And of course system synergy should also always be looked after -- which may mean spending more for a source that complements your speakers. In general, though, it seems that better speakers are the place where you get the most for your money.

Quote:

Yeah, bad speakers can mask a good source. But if you don't at least start with a good source, then following it with good amps, wires, and speakers is just a waste (pending a source upgrade).


Yes, but with digital sources, how much money gets you a "good source"? I think the answer is: relatively little money.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 5:49 PM Post #14 of 17

kelly

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shivo,

With digital sources your first big improvements are just to get away from that nasty harsh sound that audiophiles have associated with CD. IMO, if you spend money on the speakers, you're doing what the other poster said, just trying to mask that harshness.

You may be right about the pricepoints, I'm not sure. When I went shopping trying to find a source upgrade above the ART, I couldn't find anything I wanted for less than $1500-$2000. So for me, it's either upgrade the ART and stick with it or buy one of those.

Generally speaking, I really wanted to like Flumpus 555ES. I can get one of those shipped for under $800. That gives me SACD. And yet, here I am still wanting to spend $1500-2000 in a NON-SACD source instead. I think that, if anything, says that for me the point of diminishing returns is a little further out.

For speakers, the funny thing about them is that some of the best speakers come from unknown companies and can come at an exceptional price. Maybe $1000 is a bit shallow of the diminishing returns, but I'd definitely rather get more source than more speaker at that point.

Keep in mind that my main system uses NHT VT-2s, speakers that aren't very exceptional for music but for me introducing the ART DI/O (I was using the Sony S7000's internal DAC prior to that) made improvements by leaps and bounds - certainly proof that my bottleneck was not yet the speaker.
 
Mar 21, 2002 at 6:11 PM Post #15 of 17

Audio-Me

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My philosophy has been find the speaker/headphone of your choice and stick to it. Build a system around that. Then spend as much you need to get a source that will match the output device. Amp comes next, then cables. It doesn't matter how much more you spend on what (just don't over spend unless you plan on upgrading something else later), it all comes down to how everything balances out.

I've only been an audio enthusiast for a few years. My system is merely mid-fi right now, but relatively happy with it. When I bought my speakers, they were perfect for me, but my passion was home theater at the time I got it. They're not too hot for music (I'm not fond of metal drivers for music). I have a pretty clear roadmap of what I want for a permanent setup, and it's based around headphones. I'm a speaker advocate at heart, but headphones is just that much more practical at the moment. When I have the hp system that I want, all I'll have to do is get a pair of speakers and speaker cable, and I should be all set after that. I'm still exploring cables, but I'm not going to spend mucho money on them.
 

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