Are Hi-Fi Prices Getting Ridiculous?

Quite a thought provoking article/opinion piece:

Is the price of new Hi-Fi getting a bit out of hand, especially for the younger generation?

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@Martin_Kelly - Or rephrase it:

“Is the traditional hi-fi industry doing enough to appeal to younger generations?”

By “traditional” I mean US and European.

It seems that they are (low to midrange) loosing ground to companies like Topping and more.

Torben

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Chinese manufacturers produce great quality goods, at amazing prices.

Lumin, FiiO and Topping are all pushing the ‘value envelope’.

Perhaps it is a US/European/UK based problem?

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Depends what you call Hi-Fi and where the you draw the ‘starting line’ I had some cheapo matsui all in one (£100), then a denon df-10 with Royd speakers (£1000) then went on from there.
You could get a perfectly good denon/NAD/blu sound/audio lab all in one and speakers to whet a youngsters appetite. That’s if you don’t go down the second hand route of brilliant bargains.
All this is assuming that kids want Hi-Fi rather than being happy with headphones.

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Some not so kids are quite happy with headphones.and not for economic reasons

Some living environments don’t mix well with speakers played at their optimal output, inside my head I can do anything , within reason.

I can also plug in ear buds of great quality and BT from my phone, perhaps I am not 72 rather. 7.2 * n :smiling_imp:

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Getting ridiculous? Um…

The whole idea of hi-fi as “cool” was heavily promoted to posers in magazines like Playboy in the 60’s and 70’s (and heavily mocked in books and movies of the period). Manufacturers with absurd profit margins managed to keep that facade alive via strategic marketing and the CD for a few more decades. But things like the Amazon Echo and “Hey, Alexa, play Beethoven’s Ninth!” mark a return to a more moderate (and possibly saner) approach to music appreciation, reminiscent of low-fi AM radio of the first half of the twentieth century. Reversion to the mean, maybe.

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Makes me wonder if hi-fi had been promoted in the 60’s and 70’s in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, as sophisticated and elegant, or perhaps in Good Housekeeping as cozy and relationship-building, if there would be more of a female element in the hi-fi world?

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I’ve been thinking about the price/gender lopsidedness issue for a while, and it’s a pretty complex thing. There were a lot of AXPONA videos this year (on YouTube) that asked people what they thought about it. On the gender side-- lots of guys (including Michael Fremer) claimed that, as one of my favorite stereo store techs used to say: “problem is no problem.” That’s an easy claim, when you make a fat salary or are an old white guy. I think pointing to the problem of education is a reasonable direction, or, as Bill_Janssen brought up-- cultural pressure or the lack thereof.

I really get tired of reading about systems that cost more than the house I live in, or the boasting about systems that I could never dream of owning. But I had to do a reality check with an inflation calculator. I started becoming an audio fool somewhere around 1978, and I remember saving up my minimum wage salary to buy an NAD 3020 integrated amp. Full retail was $135 then, soaring to $200 by 1982. I checked what that would be in 2023 dollars-- $628, which is higher than what a lot of basic entry level integrated amps go for these days. In fact last I looked the descendent of that amp (which includes a DAC) sold for $499. The problem isn’t that the gear isn’t out there, it’s that there’s less coverage of it in these days of wealth inequality.

Another example: I remember purchasing a Pioneer PL-512 basic turntable for my brother around the same time from Sun Stereo in Southern California for $59 on sale. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $275-- around the same price of a number of entry level turntables today.

I took a minute to track down one of my dream items from back in the day-- I housesat a pair of AR-9 loudspeakers I dearly loved back then, and dreamed of owning them. They retailed in 1978 for $1300-- I never could afford them. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $6,000, not that much cheaper than the Magnepan 3.7is I’m currently dreaming of. My dreams haven’t really scaled up that much, I guess.

The real difference, I think, between now and then, is access. I live in a city of about 150,000 people and there are no stereo stores other than Best Buy. None. No place to hear anything, no place to talk to a knowledgable salesman. In 1978, I lived in a town of 70,000 people with at least four, maybe five, high end to mid fi stores. I worked for four different audio stores for several years in the 80s, and got the chance to listen to a lot of gear and talk to a lot of manufacturer’s reps. Systems were marketed to the general public at approximately $399-$1999 on a regular cycle.

It’s harder to find single components priced in that range now, let alone whole systems. But, most of that I think can be accounted for by inflation-- the difference in access and education cannot. Great systems are out there on the used market, for sure, but how do kids today know what is actually worth it? That’s the core problem.

To a woman, the interviewees at AXPONA mentioned being condescended or “mansplained” to as a primary obstacle for women entering hi fi as a hobby. A person can learn a lot on forums (like this one) but as long the atmosphere remains toxic-- where people debate the trivial and shout each other down-- the activity/industry will always be limited those with a high BS tolerance.

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Hey Jeff…did you use to race MX for Team Kawasaki? Or maybe being called the flying Freckle? Just joking…this could not possibly be the same Jeff Ward…:wink:

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Nope. When I created my first website back in 2001 or so, I had a long list of all the Jeff Wards that I am not. I think it ran a full page. :wink:

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I’ve just checked what my new Rega Planar 3, which cost £179 in 1985, would cost ‘now’ with inflation: £520. That’s not too far off the May 2023 price of £660. BUT as a percentage increase (stripping out inflation), it’s still a (roughly) 20% ‘real’ increase in cost. Significant? Or perhaps our (OLD!) minds are playing ‘tricks’ with us WRT inflation?

OK. Another example. My Linn LP12 Valhalla, Basik LVX Arm & Linn K9 MM cartridge bought new back in 1987 cost a total of £789. That would ‘now’ cost £2100 (ish). The price of a new Linn Majik LP12: £3700. Now this is more significant, and there’s a (roughly) 70% ‘real’ increase in cost compared to the cost of a comparable model thirty-plus years ago. Although I’m sure Linn would say (and they’re probably right) that a Majik LP12 is streets-ahead of my original 1987 LP12.

So, yes. Maybe Hi-Fi is getting more expensive? :money_mouth_face:

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Have you been doing any Grocery shopping lately? Or maybe buying Gasoline? It’s all ridiculous NOW…not just getting “there”. I use to buy a large bottle of Cholula Hot Sauce…B/P. before pandemic …in the $6.00 range…now it’s $9.52…fricken ridiculous!

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I know that Inflation is ‘real’ right now. But I suppose my original premise was related to potentially ‘non-inflationary’ price rises in the industry.

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Thanks for looking into that. I was surprised that all the inflation adjusted prices were so close. I suspect you’re right regarding more “high end” brands rather than what used to the mainstream. I suspect greed, and more than that— perceived value from a marketing standpoint. If they price too low, they won’t be considered “high end.”

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I suppose I have to say, to avoid misrepresentation, is that the Rega Planar 3 from nearly forty-years ago is very similar to the model you can buy new today. The bearing is probably very similar, and the rest of the deck probably hasn’t changed too much. Credit to Rega for making such a timeless, beautiful classic!

On the other hand, the new 2023 LP12 comes with a new Karousel bearing, a new Majik sub-chassis and a new Majik power supply. This all takes R&D investment. Which is (quite rightly) passed onto the consumer.

Enough to justify the ‘real’ price increase? You decide!

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But the market has changed as well. All those CDs and streaming makes a turntable less of a necessity and more of an optional luxury, so it gets priced that way.

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To true Bill. Too true…

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It is an interesting one discussing if hi-fi prices are getting out of control. I am in that business having a pretty good overview and tend to answer that question both with yes and no.

Yes because there definitely is significant inflation when it comes to products being around for decades made by well-known brands. That is especially true to everything being marketed as high end, luxury, retro, design stuff, approaching a target group who fell for the ´high end virus´ or simply likes to surround itself with precious things. HIGH END show in Munich just closed the doors a few days ago and prices seem to get out of control for what was displayed there. I see nothing bad in that. People regard it to be their hobby and passion and we all know that you are willing to pay unreasonable amounts for such a thing. But - hey, if they were not to buy hi-fi they would spend that amount on luxury watches, records, traveling, furniture or expensive cars!

No because if you know what you need and want, you can buy fantastic gear fulfilling any of your potential needs offering superb sound quality for very little money with decades of reliability. Including compatibility for a streaming service such as Spotify offering millions of tracks at fantastic quality navigated by a superb app.

I have just recently made some comparison for myself when being in need for new TWS in-ears and in terms of sound quality the good ones for just over a 100 bucks are so frighteningly superior to everything that existed before. This is not ´some gadget for MP3 lovers´, it is beating most expensive high end stuff from 10 years ago. It brings me to the feeling that people take for granted what is on offer today for a vast majority of the public. They think it is not hi-fi because 20 years ago Apple’s iPod and white plugs were not.

But that is not true. The majority of kids is listening to hi-fi stuff or at least having it a click away, but simply no-one is calling it hi-fi. It is solely a problem of recognition and some - sorry - arrogance of people who think you need expensive heavy stuff to listen to music properly.

Funny thing is that this experience is even bringing a whole new generation to hi-fi again being willing to pay a significant amount of money for gear. Simply because it is fantastic in terms of streaming options, connectivity and sound quality and younger folks are understanding that.

And why the traditional hi-fi scene is not acknowledging that? Because they do not take it seriously and they do not see it. They should. Maybe then eventually more people would jump from convenient future-fi to bigger systems.

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Thanks for sharing that analysis.

I wonder about that. Do you think the younger crowd, very accustomed to having hi-fi things in their ears, will turn to buying speakers the way we did when headphones were bulky and heavy? And without speakers, do you really need the same kind of amps?

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@Bill i am experiencing the younger folks are actually already buying a lot of speakers. Mostly their approach is simply very different to what used to be a hi-fi system as we knew it. Connectivity is king, may it be Bluetooth, Airplay, Chromecast, HDMI or voice recognition technology. I see a lot of younger people starting with some portable bluetooth speakers eventually moving to convenient multiroom or Wi-Fi models.

The big question I cannot answer yet is: How far will it go in terms of size and price? Will people spend several 1,000 bucks for a system? Will it be a mass phenomenon? Will they switch to serious bookshelf or even floorstanding units? Some people do, thanks to everything quality-oriented from Roon, Tidal, Chromecast to HDMI.

What I am quite convinced about is one thing: People won’t be willing to repeat the same thing in terms of gear that happened 30, 40 or 50 years ago. So: No, definitely not the same kind of amps. Maybe active speakers, maybe passive ones with a ´smart´ multifunctional amplifier and lots of wireless options. I am pretty sure no-one would accept a step back in terms of convenience, connectivity and ease-of-use.

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