High End Home Audio Golden Era (Minor Rant)

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by jumpnblues, Aug 11, 2020.

  1. jumpnblues

    jumpnblues Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    70
    Posts:
    3,479
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Midwest
    I think the '70s and early '80s were the heyday of home audio. Especially the '70s. There were audio stores everywhere. Even small towns had them. And almost every adolescent and young adult had a system. The choices and manufacturers were almost limitless. Plus you could get a LOT for your money. Just one example...I owned a Sansui AU20000 integrated amp. It was under $1000. Absolute top shelf amp. An amp like it today would likely be in the $12,000 to $20,000 price range. Top quality speakers were easy to find and usually very reasonably priced.

    What happened? Today you often have to travel long distances just to audition or purchase components. And, speaker and connecting cables......$2000+?!!!!!! Have you priced headphones and headphone amps lately? Or, decent quality turntables? Or, cartridges?

    What happened, indeed? To be fair, I'm not talking about entry level stuff. But I'm not talking about the high level stuff either. Just good decent sounding components and systems.

    I mentioned headphones and headphone amps above. I happened to be researching phones and amps now and I'm dumbfounded as to why they have to be so highly priced. Three to $6000 for a good sounding, mid to upper mid priced headphones and an amp. And, as mentioned above, cables are the worst offenders when it comes to prices. I mean, they must be gold plated! Wait a minute.....actually some are. Maybe that's part of it? But just medium range cables are easily $2000. Did you hear me?!! We're just talking about cables!

    I remember using 16 gauge lamp cord on my '70s system thinking it was the ultimate. It was back then. Probably cost me about $30. And many great sounding systems had those little tiny 30 gauge spindly audio cords. Man, how things have changed.

    Don't get me wrong, there are some great sounding $3000 to $5000 systems. But it seems to me you have to pay a lot more these days to get top quality, even taking the era into consideration. My entire '70s audio system cost me $7000...Sansui integrated amp, 4 JBL L166 speakers, 2 top notch turntables (one automated, one manual, top quality cartridges), a very nice Pioneer reel to reel recorder, a top quality Fisher cassette recorder, Kenwood FM tuner, a dBX compressor/expander, and a Garrard click and pop remover for one of the turntables and Koss headphones. I remembered we saved and saved and saved to get that system. All hand picked stuff according to specs. We just seemed (to me) to get much more for our money.

    Just this year I decided to take the audiophile, high end audio, plunge again. And plunge I did. Ended up with an integrated amp, 2 speakers, high end DAC, and a server for streaming. That's it. Didn't even buy a turntable. Don't have any vinyl left to play on one. I set a budget of about $12,000 and then proceeded to obliterate it. That was my choice, I didn't have to do it. And nothing has been what I would call a "bargain". None of it.

    Does it sound good? You'd better believe it sounds good. It sounds outstanding, superb, and sublime...all at once! But this is one of the very few things in my life that has given me a nasty case of buyer's remorse that I'm having trouble getting over. I think of what else I could have done with that money. I'm not talking about what else I could have spent it on. I'm talking about what good I could have done with it. Something for someone else. I'll have to admit when I crank the system up it puts a smile on my face. And sitting in my chair and relaxing to great music on a great system is very, very, satisfying to me. But I could have had a system that sounded almost as good for thousands less.

    So, my rant is aimed squarely where it should be, and maybe one other place. But at least initially it's aimed at myself and perhaps secondarily (the one other place) at the high end home audio industry for making it so tantalizing to spend much more than you anticipated. OK. Alright. So it isn't their fault. It's completely my own. Too late to do anything about it now. Think I'll go listen to my system. Just as well enjoy it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  2. Steerforth

    Steerforth Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,186
    Joined:
    May 17, 2009
    Location:
    Arkansas
    I know what you mean. Back in the 70s I took great delight in assembling a system piece-by-piece.

    Recently I looked at it and thought, “What?!? That has to be a misprint!”

    It wasn’t. So I settled for some sort of weird looking Bose thing that sounds pretty good for what it is. After life in the military, I probably couldn’t tell the difference anyway. My ears don’t work very well anymore.

    But the prices on many things have become deranged. The silver lining to that cloud is that I now have lutherie and building tube amps as very enjoyable hobbies with pleasing outcomes.

    I can afford the store-bought stuff, but I don’t want to. I was raised by my Dad, who grew up during the Great Depression. I think his point of view rubbed off on me.
     
    Jlwctn and Ricky D. like this.
  3. jumpnblues

    jumpnblues Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    70
    Posts:
    3,479
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Midwest
    Not a thing wrong with that.
     
    Steerforth likes this.
  4. RodeoTex

    RodeoTex Doctor of Teleocity

    Posts:
    10,540
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2005
    Location:
    Nueces Strip
    I think the last generation or two don't know HOW to listen to music.
    Ear buds. I blame ear buds mostly. My 18 year old son used to have one ear piece in and the other hanging out so he could hear others talking.
    I commented that that was a lousy way to listen to music.
    He didn't even know that the left and right channels carried different signals.
     
    Steerforth likes this.
  5. johnDH

    johnDH Tele-Meister

    Age:
    60
    Posts:
    214
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2016
    Location:
    Wilton NSW
    I used to love my audio systems in the 70's, building them, assessing them, listening to them, talking about them. it was partly about the music but also it filled the need to have something to be 'into' and tinker with. These days, that's provided by all variations of other technology, with capabilities undreamt of in the 1970's. And for music, there is more available more accessibly than ever, and its also easier to learn about playing music than ever.

    But yes we've lost some of that available audio quality in the mass market, and we've lost the ability to sit down and listen carefully.
     
    fretWalkr and Steerforth like this.
  6. Lawdawg

    Lawdawg Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,387
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2018
    Location:
    Atlanta
    First of all, using 1975 as a base year, your $7,000 70s system is the equivalent of a $33,500 in 2020. Maybe you spent way more than that, but that would be the equivalent price comparison to compare apples to apples. If you can't get an amazing sounding system for $33,000, well let's just say you have fancier ears than I do. Personally, I think you can get far more for the money in 2020 than you ever could in the 70s.

    With anything you buy, whether it's a car, a guitar, or fancy olive oil, you pay an incredible sum of money for the last 2-3% in quality. This is just another personal opinion, but high end audiophile gear very quickly devolves into snake oil sci-fi territory. High end cables and DACs are the biggest culprits. I've been playing and listening to music for almost my entire 50 years on this planet and I guarantee you I could not tell the difference between $2000 worth of cabling and $200.

    I can't speak for your buyer's remorse, we've all been there. If you're getting pleasure from listening to music on your new system, enjoy it without regret. There are certainly things I've spent a lot of money on that others would find insane; I spent $1,500 on a dinner for 2 at a 3 star Michelin restaurant that was worth every penny.
     
  7. ElJay370

    ElJay370 Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    50
    Posts:
    1,260
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2018
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    bromdenlong likes this.
  8. PC_Hater

    PC_Hater Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    151
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2013
    Location:
    UK
    30 years ago I decided the best way to get good quality sound was to use the same gear they used in the studios.
    Worked beautifully, not cheap but not the stupid money quoted above either.
    30 years on I moved house.
    Even I thought the massive speakers were a bit too big in my little house.
    Sold them for a very good price on eBay and bought a pair of Genelec 8020D speakers and a 7040 woofer.
    Bloody brilliant! Balanced audio input.
    Sonos does the DAC. (I am beginning to loathe the Sonos business practices - considering alternatives)
    Kunbus RevPi industrial computer is the media server.
    Everything ripped to FLAC, mp3 when there is no other option.
     
  9. aging_rocker

    aging_rocker Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,089
    Joined:
    May 8, 2019
    Location:
    The upsidedown
    I have to plead guilty to working in the hi-end audio industry back in 80's/ 90's. I've posted here before about some of my experiences/opinions/insights, but I'm in complete agreement with the statements I've highlighted above.

    My personal experience recently - I recently replaced a custom-built pre & power amplifier from the early 90's (built largely by myself with some input from a world-class audio designer) which would have retailed at the time for about $US25k (although it would have been in fancy casework at that price rather than the black 19" rackmount cases I used...) and everyone who has heard it over the years has admired the sound. I used standard 2-core house wiring for speaker cables, by the way. ;)

    This pre/power setup has now been replaced with a <$US300 amp which is not only louder but I honestly struggle to hear any degradation is quality. Yes, it sounds different, as any amplifier would, but not (subjectively) any worse.

    OP, your new setup will be wonderful, enjoy!
     
    Lawdawg, BorderRadio and micpoc like this.
  10. PARCO

    PARCO Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    288
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Location:
    VA
    I think a lot of music today is really poorly recorded possibly because of earbuds but also because so few people have decent sound systems at home to listen to music. Today's car audio is a joke.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
    RodeoTex likes this.
  11. jumpnblues

    jumpnblues Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    70
    Posts:
    3,479
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Midwest
    Yeah, I wasn't sure how '70s prices translated to now. I thought it might be closer to $15,000 to $20,000. I didn't know it would be that much of an increase over time. I did spend more that that but not a lot more.

    From what I can gather on sites such as Audiogon, high end audio gear seems to hold it's value better than other types of electronic equipment. That was not always the case. Not that it's necessarily a great investment. It does depreciate. Just not as fast as things like TVs, computers, cell phones and such. I recall one listing on Audiogon for a used Pass INT 250 integrated amp selling for $8500. They're $12,500 new. That's still a $4000 hit but I remember a time when stereo equipment had virtually no resale value. These days, at least the higher end audio gear does seem to have some ability to hold it's value.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  12. aging_rocker

    aging_rocker Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,089
    Joined:
    May 8, 2019
    Location:
    The upsidedown
    I was visiting a friend recently, who recently picked up a 90's Cambridge Audio amp at a garage sale for the equivalent of $US50. After blowing the dust out of it and warming it up, we decided that it blows away his current Marantz AV receiver in terms of sound quality.

    It doesn't have quite as many inputs though... ;)
     
    BorderRadio likes this.
  13. micpoc

    micpoc Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,641
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2007
    Location:
    Louisiana
    Would you mind telling us what $300 amp you purchased that compares favorably with a $25K custom-built unit? I think MANY of us would be genuinely interested!
     
  14. Skully

    Skully Doctor of Teleocity

    Posts:
    12,760
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2003
    Location:
    Glamorous NoHo
    I think the baseline quality of systems is much higher and more affordable today. That said, these kids today don't have a clue about sound equipment. I was at a press demo for new speakers and other tech by Google two or three years ago, and I asked the guy showing off the equipment if a certain powered speaker system was mono or stereo, and he looked at me like I was speaking Esperanto. I honestly don't think he knew what mono was. For the record, the speaker was mono.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
    aging_rocker likes this.
  15. aging_rocker

    aging_rocker Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,089
    Joined:
    May 8, 2019
    Location:
    The upsidedown
    Well, (and I'm sure that the answer will upset many...) it's a Topping TP-60 - currently on sale at Parts express for less than $200 in USA-land apparently!

    I've been fiddling around with various 'gainclone' amps for years, and decided that I really liked the sound of the TA2022 chip. After looking into the logistics/costs of putting an amp together based on that chip, and doing a lot of interweb research, I figured that just buying the TP60 would be less hassle. And I'm not disappointed. There are various tweaks that can be made to it, I haven't started down that rabbit hole yet, but no doubt I will. To be fair I could have done more tweaking to my old amps, but I was just looking for something new...and smaller. It has a nice dual power supply, and I've learned over time that a good supply is one of the most crucial elements in amps, particularly class-d.

    Results as always would be very system-dependent, and like anything else it is only as good as the source feeding it and the speakers it's running, but it doesn't 'get in the way' which is what expect from an amp. Some folks dismiss these amps as toys, and I get that, but I trust my ears (even with the tinnitus...) I don't need big volume levels these days (pesky tinnitus again...) so it gets plenty loud enough for me. Like most class-d, you really wouldn't want to go anywhere near the 'rated' output levels, or they quickly start to sound yukky.

    I've had it for a year or so now, no reliability issues yet.
     
    micpoc likes this.
  16. tele12

    tele12 Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,702
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2006
    Location:
    NY
    No you didn't get more for your money back then.
    To put it in perspective the $7000 you spent on your system, in 1975 would have bought you a brand new Chevy Corvette. Today the sticker on a 2020 Vette is about $58,000. I haven't seriously followed audio in years, but I know $58,000 will buy you a system orders of magnitude better than the 70s system you had.
    I actually think the mid to late 80s offered some serious improvements over the 70s stuff. A lot more people got serious after CDs came out. A lot of small companies offering great stuff.
     
  17. jumpnblues

    jumpnblues Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    70
    Posts:
    3,479
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Midwest
    Yeah, the price of a Corvette in the mid '70s doesn't surprise me. I wasn't very impressed by '70s 'Vettes. I had just come from the muscle car era and mid '70s 'Vettes were dawgs. But that's another thread.

    It took us about 1 1/2 to 2 years to save the money for the stereo. It does surprise me how much $7000 translates to in modern dollars. I would have thought it would be more like $25,000 to $30,000 in today's dollars. But that's just a guess. It just seems like it would be a little easier to come up with $7000 back then vs $58,000 today. But I'll take your word for it because I don't have a clue.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
  18. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,231
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2015
    Location:
    Winchester, VA
    I used to work as a soldering technician for a company that was contracted to build amplifiers for the Jeff Rowland Design Group. These were extremely high-end, most of the amplifiers were monophonic. If you wanted stereo, you would buy two of them and use a stereo preamplifier. Each mono amplifier would cost about $7,000. And this was in the 1990s. Also, note that these were all solid state. Jeff Rowland specifically did not like tube amplification.

    Right now A my house, I have an NAD integrated stereo amp. I've had it powered up since around 1994 (with the exception of power outages, moving to a new location, etc.). It was made in England, runs on 220 volts, and I've got it on a Radio Shack power inverter for 110V. I think the amplifier cost me around $125 at a pawn shop.
     
  19. electrichead

    electrichead Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    347
    Joined:
    May 16, 2013
    Location:
    Hell if I know,MD
    I think I was maybe 17 and was selling a car to buy a newer car so I would quit having to borrow my mothers car.
    The crap hit the fan when she got home and instead of another car I spent the 1200.00 on stereo components.
    Moms just didn't understand back then..
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.