Is Today's Home Theater Gear Too Inexpensive?

gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
With the price of today's flatpanel displays being so affordable, and loudspeaker performance getting better on the cheap, Audioholics contributor Jerry Del Colliano asks an interesting question: "Is Today's Home Theater Gear Too Inexpensive?"

For consumers, what you get for your money today is better than ever before. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to pay for the nth degree of performance, unless that is the goal that you are chasing. That level of excellence will always be elusive but like breaking the world speed record – it is a hell of a lot of fun, too. In the meantime, enjoy the fact that you can spend less today than ever before on an AV system that can rock in ways money couldn’t buy mere years ago – and that is a damn good thing.
Read: Is Today's Home Theater Gear Too Inexpensive?

focal-jerry.jpg
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
TV prices aside, receivers and speakers haven't changed that much last 10 years. I've bought one of the best value receivers back in 2007 (and arguably still is because it stood the test of time) - Onkyo TX-SR805 for $715. That's 7 channels of 130W type AB amps THX Ultra2 certified. Yes, even back then some compromises were made to make it more affordable (less robust video path for example) and it is absolutely known to run very hot (that heat will often cause premature deaths if not ventilated enough). I even had to resolder a few resistors managing power to the front unit display. Yes, it's also very heavy.

But my point stands - nowadays you simply won't find that kind of power at the same price. Even considering inflation of roughly 26.2% between 2007 and 2021. That's still $902 equivalent.
So you could get a $900 A/V receiver with more features (ATMOS etc..) but the price to pay is amplifier power.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Overlord
TV prices aside, receivers and speakers haven't changed that much last 10 years. I've bought one of the best value receivers back in 2007 (and arguably still is because it stood the test of time) - Onkyo TX-SR805 for $715. That's 7 channels of 130W type AB amps THX Ultra2 certified. Yes, even back then some compromises were made to make it more affordable (less robust video path for example) and it is absolutely known to run very hot (that heat will often cause premature deaths if not ventilated enough). I even had to resolder a few resistors managing power to the front unit display. Yes, it's also very heavy.

But my point stands - nowadays you simply won't find that kind of power at the same price. Even considering inflation of roughly 26.2% between 2007 and 2021. That's still $902 equivalent.
So you could get a $900 A/V receiver with more features (ATMOS etc..) but the price to pay is amplifier power.
Yup. Power supplies have definitely taken a hit with the focus being more features.

Speakers on the other hand, I think have gotten so much better for the money. That's where I think we've made the biggest leaps. You can find great performing speakers that blow away those of yesteryear for a fraction of the price today.
 
P

prerich

Enthusiast
Great article Jerry! However, I think the speaker thing started earlier...in the late 90's. Infinity (which has disappeared off the scene) started making amazingly flat and efficient speakers (composition series and the end of the IRS series ...the Epslilon). While the Epsilon was very expensive, the Prelude P-FR was affordable. Then came the MTS, Intermezzo, and Interlude series! Infinity capped it off with the Primus series. We go on to find Andrew Jones (who happened to help design the P-FR with Ficheman), doing a big number at Pioneer and then Elac. Kef also changes the game with the LS50, and then we have Tekton and Eric's work! All of this was a trend from the late 90's. You can get 90's speakers that perform great.
 
Mikado463

Mikado463

Audioholic Samurai
TV prices aside, receivers and speakers haven't changed that much last 10 years. I've bought one of the best value receivers back in 2007 (and arguably still is because it stood the test of time) - Onkyo TX-SR805 for $715. That's 7 channels of 130W type AB amps THX Ultra2 certified. Yes, even back then some compromises were made to make it more affordable (less robust video path for example) and it is absolutely known to run very hot (that heat will often cause premature deaths if not ventilated enough). I even had to resolder a few resistors managing power to the front unit display. Yes, it's also very heavy.

But my point stands - nowadays you simply won't find that kind of power at the same price. Even considering inflation of roughly 26.2% between 2007 and 2021. That's still $902 equivalent.
So you could get a $900 A/V receiver with more features (ATMOS etc..) but the price to pay is amplifier power.
As Class D amp topology further evolves not only will you find that kind of power for the $$, you will surpass it I suspect, time will tell ........
 
Teetertotter?

Teetertotter?

Audioholic
I think HT equipment is competitively priced and has been for sometime. Perhaps is more competitive [less expensive] than years past. Quality maybe better too............Wait for the SALES!
 
cpp

cpp

Audioholic Field Marshall
Not sure, maybe supply and demand thing. Get the initial costs of research, engineering and manufacturing out of the first year with sells and then lower your prices to support the following years product introductions. You make a lot, and sell a lot, you can reduce the price and recoup manufacturing and design cost and maybe the continued introductions of foreign made components are part of the price reductions. Loud speakers, I guess it depends on how far up the food chain in Audiophile land one wants to go as there are prices for everyone. Receivers / processors, its appears it all about how many features one can cram into a box vs the actual power and its dynamics to supply the sound.
 
M

mns3dhm

Audiophyte
Agree completely that televisions have gotten much better and cheaper - a blessing for the consumer. Multi channel audio on the other hand has become increasingly complex and has now reached the point where I don't see the value in it unless you're building a dedicated home theater room. I'd rather spend my money on much higher quality stereo playback (with a sub) and forgo all the surround and overhead channel.
 
Gmoney

Gmoney

Audioholic Ninja
Nope, Audio gear is Much better today than it was back in the 70's and 80's. I paid 400 bucks for a 75x2 stereo receiver that looked cool had two watt meters but had NO BALLS!. Speakers where big ugly box looking paper driver everything. That same 400 bucks in todays money was like spending over 2K on that 75x2 stereo receiver. So yeah the value on audio gear today is way better. Sure if you want to chase that last 1% of audio nirvana ya gonna pay for it.
 
nathan_h

nathan_h

Audioholic
If you told me in 1985 I could put a front projection system in my living room with surround sound for the cost of one meal for four at a Michelin 1 Star Restaurant, I would have laughed you into the next millennium. Yet, here we are.

There was a time not too long ago when a home theater cost the price of 2 or three automobiles! I remember one custom installer defending the price of a basic home theater by explaining a family could buy an RV, and enjoy it for a few weeks each year, or buy a home theater for the same price, and enjoy it every night.

Yes, it is still POSSIBLE to spend crazy amounts of cash for a killer system.

And if you have crippling FOMO, then trying to upgrade sources, AVRs and displays every year is gonna kill you.

But that's unnecessary. And yes, I can point to a piece of gear that was a better value than some similarly priced piece of gear available today. Everyone can. (And that's not even taking into account the 20% inflation in consumer prices during the last decade which of course means on a dollar for dollar basis stuff will cost a little more now than before.) But just because one can cherry pick a few counter examples for specific pieces of gear doesn't mean the overall cost has gone up.

It is possible to get an amazing system for a few grand that rivals or exceeds the quality a Hollywood mogul in the 80s could put in their home -- and that will still look and sound great in ten years from today, without any upgrades or new gear (though albeit with a little maintenance). Is it going to be cutting edge new technology every year? Nope. Is it going to be awesome today and next year and the year after and so on? Yep.

Is today's gear too expensive? Tell me what it would cost to have a 120" screen, projector, and 5.1 surround system 20 years ago?

I can do it waaay cheaper today than then, and it is of higher quality. ;)

---

And don't even get me started with how accessible media is these days....... with content available at the click of a button that exceeds just about any video store that ever existed.
 
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S

snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
Think the years of use before obsolete has dropped in the AVR area if you try to keep up with TV technology, so better pricing makes sense if you only run 5 years and not 12. I held out longer than most but a 4K TV purchase pushed me to HDMI and it’s fine as far as 2.0 spec at least. 2.1 is probably a couple years away from working right with 8K... LOL :)

The upside of modern AVRs is you can stream music from your favorite music app directly to the AVR and that’s really a great benefit. Especially on days working from home. :)
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Spartan
I am leaning towards saying that the Electronic side of the hobby, AVR, AVPs and Amps are pushing people into (largely) two tiers: bad equipment that doesn't cost too much, and not-so-great equipment that costs way too much. For those that can afford $10K+ in electronics with impunity, that's great... but not realistic for the masses. Even when the Lady and I were DINK, each earning high 5-figures, expenditures like that were unrealistic!

Cost an Complexity are the double edged blade that hurts this hobby. IMO, the simple solutions (fitting into the first category I mentioned above) are cr@ppy solutions like HTIBs with Kleenex box-sized Mains and poorly designed Subs, or non-linear Speakers that look really cool with Copper Cones, and sound exciting but don't necessarily stand up to scrutiny. Hell, somebody just started a thread asking about that brand and whether he needed to get the XO Modification marketed by a certain Texas Speaker Designer to make those speakers work right... and this guy is in Peru!

So even though good quality Speakers are available at reasonable prices, there is still a huge amount of detritus one needs to sort through to find the good stuff. Yes, a major sin is marketing there, adding to the complexity of learning simple basics about what to buy, and why one might want to choose Brand A over Brand K.

All of this only gets compounded now due to the Pandemic. We've seen half-baked technology rushed to market to Support the latest Game Consoles, resulting in reputable brands having their images dinged up. We've seen same companies not be able to get same product to market consistently. Add in the loss of the AKM factory...

Bah!

No, I don't think all of the gear is too inexpensive, but the wrong things are getting cheaper than the balance point between them and the stuff that is too expensive. Overall, the whole market segment for AV enthusiasts is backwards and upside down and overall focus is seemingly on the wrong things.

It also doesn't help when in two recent articles now, the author/writer is touting their mansions and luxury AV systems. ;) I'm not trying to be anti-success or anything, but the perpetuation that this has to be an expensive pursuit only hampers the likelihood of getting good results in more budget-aware components. Justifying those $6K Amps and $13K AVPs and Speakers with Diamonds is a foolish way of attempting to keep this pursuit something that can welcome people of any income bracket into the fold, especially when you look at yet other recent topics such as whether HiFi is dying.

*stepsoffsoapbox

:)
 
M

MDK210

Junior Audioholic
Most of the equipment now is geared toward the "normal" consumer and understandably so as that's the bulk of the market. Much like car companies, audio brands have to sell in mass so they can stay in business and fund their high-end products lines for the elite. They do this by selling features while keeping the internals minimal and depending on brand name recognition you may get to sell yours at a higher price as people assume since they can't buy it at Best Buy it's more exotic or better. Marantz/Denon are a good example of branding but Denon is either on par or outperforming Marantz yet you pay $$$ more because of the Marantz name even though it's the same company.

Hell, if you run a 2-ch setup it's cheaper just to replace the damn TV these days as opposed to a receiver or integrated amp ha. And if you're a hardware geek that will never run a 13-ch setup you'll have to buy that 13-ch receiver to get the toroidal transformer or specific DAC. Don't forget about the hidden costs of licensing fees such as Atmos. If I had it my way companies would make one version of a 2-ch, 5-ch, etc and either add features via modules (e.g. NAD) or firmware updates. Why Sony has 50 different 7-ch receivers is beyond me and diminishes the brands quality and consumer perception all for mass production. Why would I buy a $1500 Sony AVR when you're probably getting very similar components out of their $200 one...
 
J

jeffca

Audioholic Intern
Too inexpensive?

DataSat's stuff isn't cheap at all. There are a few other pre/pro's that meander in the $20-30K space right now as well. The feature sets on these processors are not for the faint of heart, but, for gearhead audio engineers such as me, they aren't the least bit daunting. My Emotiva XMC-1 actually doesn't have enough controls, processing power or options for me.

I do, though, fully concur that all A/V equipment is better now than it's ever been. I'm really enjoying that trend.

Watching a great concert in high def in my home theater does not depress me at all.
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
As Class D amp topology further evolves not only will you find that kind of power for the $$, you will surpass it I suspect, time will tell ........
Regardless of Amp topology, I (and just me) still see that the pure power output (and arguably the quality) of recent receivers amplifiers has been somewhat reduced.
 
M

Movie2099

Senior Audioholic
Too inexpensive?

DataSat's stuff isn't cheap at all. There are a few other pre/pro's that meander in the $20-30K space right now as well. The feature sets on these processors are not for the faint of heart, but, for gearhead audio engineers such as me, they aren't the least bit daunting. My Emotiva XMC-1 actually doesn't have enough controls, processing power or options for me.

I do, though, fully concur that all A/V equipment is better now than it's ever been. I'm really enjoying that trend.

Watching a great concert in high def in my home theater does not depress me at all.
Heck yeah! Trinnov all the way! Altitude 32!! DataSat is another great processor company. I've looked into those as well. I think if you want a real home theater, like legit HT, you're going to have to spend some money. Like well over $75k. A lot of people on here just have makeshift entertainment rooms, not real HT's. I'm putting together a build for my next custom built house and I'm looking to spend around $150k on my HT alone. I might have to invite Gene up to see how amazing it is!
 
Kingnoob

Kingnoob

Audioholic General
Agree completely that televisions have gotten much better and cheaper - a blessing for the consumer. Multi channel audio on the other hand has become increasingly complex and has now reached the point where I don't see the value in it unless you're building a dedicated home theater room. I'd rather spend my money on much higher quality stereo playback (with a sub) and forgo all the surround and overhead channel.
My tv was$1100; for anon hdr tv in 2015 ...I feel ripped off I never use it anymore cuz cable looks awful on it .
For a comparable amp to the onkyo 818 I need to spend $1200-1800 you do get a 9ch amp but power amp ratings usually lower . That’s twice the price of onkyo over $1350.
Receivers cost a ton more now , TVs are rising again soon with mini led just watch .
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
... or non-linear Speakers that look really cool with Copper Cones, and sound exciting but don't necessarily stand up to scrutiny. Hell, somebody just started a thread asking about that brand and whether he needed to get the XO Modification marketed by a certain Texas Speaker Designer to make those speakers work right... and this guy is in Peru!
Ugh... the more I think about Klipsch, the angrier I get...
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Echoing some other sentiments in this thread, no, AV products are not too cheap. One thing that the article doesn't really address is cost of living increases without increases in wages, and the shrinking middle class. People who live paycheck-to-paycheck i.e., most people, don't have the money to spend on a fancy sound system. And when I say fancy sound system, I mean anything beyond a soundbar setup that costs more than a few hundred dollars. Spending $1k+ on just some loudspeakers or an amplifier is unthinkable for a whole WHOLE lot of people.

The good news is, as has been noted by the article and many posters in this thread, audio and video equipment has seen some enormous leaps in performance for the price in the last couple of decades. The bad news is that most people simply don't care about good sound systems anymore, sadly at a point where it is easier than ever to put together a killer hi-fi system for a very accessible cost.

I might venture to guess one of the things that killed hi-fi for average people is surround sound. Too complex, too inconvenient, yet somehow many people believe it to be the point of entry for good sound, but they don't want to deal with the cost, complexity, and difficulty in putting one together, so they don't bother with trying to get a good sound at all.
 
Kingnoob

Kingnoob

Audioholic General
Echoing some other sentiments in this thread, no, AV products are not too cheap. One thing that the article doesn't really address is cost of living increases without increases in wages, and the shrinking middle class. People who live paycheck-to-paycheck i.e., most people, don't have the money to spend on a fancy sound system. And when I say fancy sound system, I mean anything beyond a soundbar setup that costs more than a few hundred dollars. Spending $1k+ on just some loudspeakers or an amplifier is unthinkable for a whole WHOLE lot of people.

The good news is, as has been noted by the article and many posters in this thread, audio and video equipment has seen some enormous leaps in performance for the price in the last couple of decades. The bad news is that most people simply don't care about good sound systems anymore, sadly at a point where it is easier than ever to put together a killer hi-fi system for a very accessible cost.

I might venture to guess one of the things that killed hi-fi for average people is surround sound. Too complex, too inconvenient, yet somehow many people believe it to be the point of entry for good sound, but they don't want to deal with the cost, complexity, and difficulty in putting one together, so they don't bother with trying to get a good sound at all.
Yeah people are struggling to survive these days , tiny Bluetooth speakers and soundbars make a mockery of audio so no one bothers to go further then those ... tv speakers get worse and worse , TVs go back up in price once they add a new feature like 8k.. or mini led
A quality tv still runs you 1.5k or more so what if garbage models are under $600 usually these days .
 

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