The Law of Diminishing Returns in Hi-Fi

davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Field Marshall
Nice. And another (maybe the most important) issue he addressed is the loss of hearing as you age.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
I've watched a couple of Andrew's videos lately. One kinda bothered me with descriptions of amp sounds but then he loves one of my favorite amps (not based on any particular "sound quality" type) so I dunno.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
I think diminishing returns set in at different points depending on your wants. For a lot o people, they don't even care about the basics of sound quality, and their laptop PC speakers are good enough for them. Some people think that cheap soundbars are overkill from built-in TV speakers.

I would say if you actually care about sound quality, then three things have to be considered: amplitude response both on and off-axis, dynamic range, and low-frequency extension. The more you need from each of these categories, the more expensive the system will necessarily be. You can get speakers with reasonably good amplitude response for not to expensive, there are very affordable studio monitors out there which have very good frequency response- they won't get enormously loud or dig deep, but they are accurate in response. Likewise, if all you care about is dynamic range, you can get some live sound speakers for relatively cheaply, they can get loud but do not dig deep or have a very linear response. Of course, if all you care about is low frequency extension, just get some deep digging subs, not hugely expensive. However, when you start combining all these ingredients, things get expensive and there is no way around it.
 
Ponzio

Ponzio

Audioholic Samurai
I think for the average audiophile Joe it all comes down to budget, to a degree.

I was always into good equipment/speakers since I was a young man. I started working in an electronics shop (Silo's in the Philadelphia area) as a 15 year old. Even after I moved on, it seemed a week or two didn't pass by where I was either in a record or hi-fi shops for the rest of my life.

While I always had decent gear it wasn't until I was forced into retirement by health issues and started demoing speakers in 2012 that I was truly amazed by the advances in speaker technology/drivers and the affordability. My impression though was that once you went beyond the $15K/$20K speaker price point there was only incremental improvements in the SQ (sound quality) and that's why this video appealed to me.

it's a great time to be alive and have access to all this great audio equipment at such reasonable prices and sites like AH, which give you in-depth equipment reviews.

Thank you [insert you're god here]! ;)
 
2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
Post #4 touches on it.

I think the point of depreciating returns with music varies a great deal from one person to the next.

If you've listened to much live music and the detail it conveys or you've sat in on a studio rehearsal which I did some as a youngster and you hear the same music rehearsed played back on a recording. You get an appreciation for what it really sounds like.

The final piece of this is what have you listened to? The 1st time I heard a speaker noted to be of high quality, accurate speakers...this was probably '79 or '80... I heard a pair of Linn book shelf speakers...when I went home and played back the same music on my Pioneer 3-way floor standers, I was amazed at the clarity, imaging and detail of the Linns even with less bass they sounded so much better...that was my very first hifi purchase. IIRC those Linns were about $1k with metal stands, in addition to a NAD CD player, NAD stereo pre-amp and a 2 ch Harman Kardon power amp....to think I went in there armed and ready to buy a pair of Klipschorns. The point here is the Linn speakers awoke me to the world of hifi...they established the SQ bar for me at a pretty young age.

At the end of the day with music...if the details matter, your point of depreciating returns is going to cost more. If you don't notice or care about the double note the bass player made, or the detail a drummer has going in the cymbals in right channel...your PODR would be rather low...a HITB system would probably be suitable.
 
2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
I think for the average audiophile Joe it all comes down to budget, to a degree.

I was always into good equipment/speakers since I was a young man. I started working in an electronics shop (Silo's in the Philadelphia area) as a 15 year old. Even after I moved on, it seemed a week or two didn't pass by where I was either in a record or hi-fi shops for the rest of my life.

While I always had decent gear it wasn't until I was forced into retirement by health issues and started demoing speakers in 2012 that I was truly amazed by the advances in speaker technology/drivers and the affordability. My impression though was that once you went beyond the $15K/$20K speaker price point there was only incremental improvements in the SQ (sound quality) and that's why this video appealed to me.

it's a great time to be alive and have access to all this great audio equipment at such reasonable prices and sites like AH, which give you in-depth equipment reviews.

Thank you [insert you're god here]! ;)
Small world...some time after your 15 y/o days I'm sure :) ... I worked at the Lindbergh Blvd Silo HQ for 5 yrs....SW Philly.

Jim Salk, whom I've had several conversations with...one of note. I had purchased a pair of his Song3A ($4k) speakers and I asked, where do I go from here in your line and what do I gain? He said, as a 2.0 speaker...probably the Soundscape 7 or 8 ($8-9k) and you would gain SPL, and bass mostly.

Since I've had my Salks, I've gone back an listened to the B&W 803 D3 ($17k) and the Paradigm Persona 5F, an 3F...both over $10k. Salk was right...2.0 those speakers have more low end and they can get louder...detail and SQ, splitting hairs imo.
 
Ponzio

Ponzio

Audioholic Samurai
Small world...some time after your 15 y/o days I'm sure :) ... I worked at the Lindbergh Blvd Silo HQ for 5 yrs....SW Philly.

Jim Salk, whom I've had several conversations with...one of note. I had purchased a pair of his Song3A ($4k) speakers and I asked, where do I go from here in your line and what do I gain? He said, as a 2.0 speaker...probably the Soundscape 7 or 8 ($8-9k) and you would gain SPL, and bass mostly.

Since I've had my Salks, I've gone back an listened to the B&W 803 D3 ($17k) and the Paradigm Persona 5F, an 3F...both over $10k. Salk was right...2.0 those speakers have more low end and they can get louder...detail and SQ, splitting hairs imo.
Oh wow, no kidding. I worked at the E. Norriton, PA store for 3 years. Small world indeed. Si himself hired me, after I served him coffee at a restaurant I was working, and we started talking about hi-fi equipment. He was impressed that a 14 year old would know so much about audio, relative to my age. Good guy and his wife too, Lois.

Funnily enough I own a pair of Salk SongTowers QWT's.
 
2

2channel lover

Audioholic Field Marshall
Oh wow, no kidding. I worked at the E. Norriton, PA store for 3 years. Small world indeed. Si himself hired me, after I served him coffee at a restaurant I was working, and we started talking about hi-fi equipment. He was impressed that a 14 year old would know so much about audio, relative to my age. Good guy and his wife too, Lois.

Funnily enough I own a pair of Salk SongTowers QWT's.
Indeed....I came in shortly before the Brits (Dixon's) bought them out and started expanding. There were probably 180 or so stores at the time. I ran the brown goods dept (they called our dept logistics/inventory management). Coming from a larger retailer doing a similar job in NY, our computer inventory systems were antiquated by comparison at Silo. Circuit City more or less cleaned our clock head to head, and we eventually saw that the Best Buy model was the one to survive.

Dixon's management didn't know the US market that well and eventually sold us off the an outfit based Mich and that was my trigger to leave the northeast... :).
 
STRONGBADF1

STRONGBADF1

Audioholic Spartan
Oh wow, no kidding. I worked at the E. Norriton, PA store for 3 years. Small world indeed. Si himself hired me, after I served him coffee at a restaurant I was working, and we started talking about hi-fi equipment. He was impressed that a 14 year old would know so much about audio, relative to my age. Good guy and his wife too, Lois.

Funnily enough I own a pair of Salk SongTowers QWT's.
Small world indeed... I bought a pair of Cerwin Vega D5's from that store. First speakers I ever bought. I don't have Salks though. I can't get off my wallet for the SS8's. For now my SVS's will have to do.
 
Ponzio

Ponzio

Audioholic Samurai
Small world indeed... I bought a pair of Cerwin Vega D5's from that store. First speakers I ever bought. I don't have Salks though. I can't get off my wallet for the SS8's. For now my SVS's will have to do.
I can assure you I didn't sell you the Cerwin Vega's. :p

Even though they had a higher commission rate than most of the other speakers, I refused to sell them. They were good for bass and nothing else. Muddy mid-range and almost non-existent tweeter. I mostly sold Panasonic, Technics and Sony equipment (speakers/receivers) and the occasional Pioneer.
 
William Lemmerhirt

William Lemmerhirt

Audioholic Spartan
I can assure you I didn't sell you the Cerwin Vega's. :p

Even though they had a higher commission rate than most of the other speakers, I refused to sell them. They were good for bass and nothing else. Muddy mid-range and almost non-existent tweeter. I mostly sold Panasonic, Technics and Sony equipment (speakers/receivers) and the occasional Pioneer.
I’ll agree to a point. When I was young, I had a pair of D9’s. They had a 15” woofer with two 5-1/4’s(I think) and an actual horn tweeter. They had response controls for the mids and tweeters. Definitely NOT non existent tweeter lol. I’m sure they don’t measure anywhere near flat, but definitely had as much top, as bottom. I powered them with a Technics AVR and had much fun. Damn, that was a long time ago.....
 
STRONGBADF1

STRONGBADF1

Audioholic Spartan
So we agree that Cerwin Vega didn't reach "diminishing returns"? ;)
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ponzio. I think you have asked an improtant question that does not have a simplistic answer.

I think the point at which you reach the point of diminishing returns is not limited or even totally detemined by your equipment purchases.

I think you have to take a more holistic view espeically focussing on the miriad of demoestic envirnonments.

There gets to a point in every system where no further imprevement can be made in that environement.

The sad fact has to be faced that most domestic envirnoments, especially in newer open plan designs, reach a brick wall as far as improving sound quality. That point is all over the map.

So I have come to realize that every room/environment has a point where no sinifcant improvement can be made. So in other words the only route to further improvement is a total design approach.

So you porbably have realized that I have been fortunate enought to have the opportunity to take a total desing approach. This is not an opportunity that will come to many.

So with this move, I had a complete blank canvas so to speak. So I could build a very rigid house of concrete. I could set the room dimensions to be optiamal. This is an unusual luxury. I could make all walls very rigid. Even small amount of vibration are a big enemy. All wall, floor and ceiling cavities have been highly damped.

The total design extended to the gorund plane of the whole house, Internet and cable installation, and also aspects of the wiring of lights and especially dimmers.

Now most of the equipment is essentially the same. However the results by listening AND measurement have been highly significant. So diminishing returns by no means applied here. So much so that the audiory effects of the room seem to be by no means dominant, which is highly unusual.

I think there are now a variety of speakers and amps that can probably optimize the performance of many listening rooms, so that the benefit of improved equipment could only be realized by a different or improved environment.

As you know as part of this design there are a number of novel features to the speaker sytem which also play their part. What I'm getting at here is that there does seem to ba a lack of inovation in speaker design. What I mean by this is that speaker design has come to be dominated by fashion and ritual far too much, with incresing price not really being a good reflection of R & D and inovative design in most cases.
 
JerryLove

JerryLove

Audioholic Samurai
Jim Salk, whom I've had several conversations with...one of note. I had purchased a pair of his Song3A ($4k) speakers and I asked, where do I go from here in your line and what do I gain? He said, as a 2.0 speaker...probably the Soundscape 7 or 8 ($8-9k) and you would gain SPL, and bass mostly.

Since I've had my Salks, I've gone back an listened to the B&W 803 D3 ($17k) and the Paradigm Persona 5F, an 3F...both over $10k. Salk was right...2.0 those speakers have more low end and they can get louder...detail and SQ, splitting hairs imo.
Salk SCST's here (the one from the Audio event in (IIRC) 2013.

I agree. I did some direct comparisons with my Infinity RS3s, B&W 801m3's, and B&W 801N's; and while there are differences in dispersion, SPL, and bass-ability; I couldn't otherwise assert that one was better than the other. (admittedly, I'm pulling the best sounding speakers I've owned from a large list).

I don't think, in terms of SQ, there's really a gain after that point... again except in LF, which can be easily passed off to subs, or in SPL (I do love my Klipsch 650THX's for theater speakers).
 
JerryLove

JerryLove

Audioholic Samurai
To the topic. the point of diminishing return is almost immediate.

Do we really imagine the improvement from $100-$150 is as good as the improvement from $50-$100 was?
Even logarithmicly: I suspect you'll find you got more from $100-$200 than you did from $200-$400.

The real question is more like "where does the cost/gain ratio hit a point where it's no longer worth it to me?"
 
killdozzer

killdozzer

Audioholic Field Marshall
If you're set on the room you'll listen your music in, you have a system that can get your favorite kind of loud in that room, but stays pretty accurate. If your system covers the freq range slightly beyond what your music program demands and behaves decently while reproducing it and also soothes (or at least doesn't hurt) your eye...

This is where it rapidly starts diminishing for me.
 

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