The High-Priced Deception?

To Doug Schneider,

I consider myself as only one in a relatively few to speak out against deception. The many articles written and books that confirm what I am about to explain are too numerous to count. Also, some people that are even millionaires will back up what I will point out now.

You can’t evaluate a speaker’s performance based on how much it costs (this goes for other audio components as well). The phrase “Well if it costs that much, it must sound better” is not valid. For the most part, home loudspeaker performance has not improved much in the last 30 or 40 years. Speakers that look amazing, as if they came from another planet, do not sound better than well-designed speakers at moderately high prices (that would be in the $2000 to $6000 range). And even some speakers that cost less than $1000 can sound very dynamic.

The law of diminishing returns dictates that six-figure speakers are a waste of money. Here is the thing though: There are so many uneducated people out there (with lots of $$$) when it comes to home audio and so the market for extremely expensive audio components still thrives. Paying for aesthetics and cosmetics of a speaker’s cabinet is way more money than the transducers they house. The best speakers that are well designed and sound the best are not the most expensive ones! This is an absolute truth, so do not write back with what you believe because it does not matter.

You have an interest in selling extremely high-priced audio components and that automatically makes you biased to this topic. Don’t get angry and emotional either because this goes against most people’s (including myself!) need to be right even if they are not. If you are right about something because of the facts, that is one thing, but if it is all about “money talks and B.S. walks,” well then think again. I know how the market works in regard to audio components. There is a certain amount of people that perhaps like to pay extra for aesthetics because they can afford to and it is all about having what one would think to be the best, even though it is not. If you find yourself being offended by all this (maybe you are not?), then why are you or anyone else so easily offended?

Look, I take criticism all the time and then I thank those that do it. It is not a big deal. I just know this topic like nobody else does. Still not many will try to find out the truth of the matter and just believe the deceptive words of someone else. Your establishment, Soundstage Network, is not the only one that practices marketing to the very rich home-audio-enthusiast crowd. Many others do the same thing.

United States

This might surprise you -- I’m not offended and I actually agree with many of your points. For example, price doesn’t always correlate with performance; there definitely is some overpriced gear on the market; and there are many people with too much money who think they are buying something better, if only because it’s expensive, when it’s really not. You can’t judge a book by its cover and you certainly can’t judge an audio product solely by its price tag.

There are things we differ on, mind you. First, I don’t believe it’s true that speakers haven’t improved much in the last 30 or 40 years. I got into this hobby in about 1980, so 38 years ago. Speakers are so much better today than even 20 years ago, let alone almost 40, the comparison is not even close, right down to the lowest-priced ones. For example, a pair of $400 speakers today are much better than the ones I bought in 1980, not even adjusting for inflation. There is not only much better understanding today of how to design a good loudspeaker, designers have access to many more materials for the cabinets, crossovers, and drivers. Also, the manufacturing quality is superior. That doesn’t mean every loudspeaker made today is better than every one made decades ago, but you can certainly find many that are. On the whole, they have gotten much better.

As far as having “an interest in selling extremely high-priced audio components and that automatically makes you biased to this topic” is far from the truth. If you look at this site, SoundStage! Hi-Fi, we review products from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars -- pretty much everything. We also have a sister site called SoundStage! Access that caters exclusively to much more affordable gear. What might be surprising to learn is that reviews of the most expensive products are not the most read; instead, the most popular reviews are ones of products that cost three or four digits, partially because they’re made by companies that are more well known, but mostly because more people can afford them. The most popular review on this site is of the KEF LS50 loudspeaker, priced at $1500/pair. . . . Doug Schneider