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  1. #1
    Just Another Old Fart
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    An elitest's viewpoint.

    Michael Fremer of Stereophile just wrote, in describing the Music Reference RM-200 Mk.11 power amplifier: "It costs $4200. If that's your idea of "expensive" (notice the quotes), well, regardless of what you can afford, you're in the wrong hobby."

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Can you provide a link for the source of that quote? I would like to read it in the context of the article or review. While I have not yet spent that much on a component it would be within reach. Also Michael writes for a high end magazine so in that context it would seem affordable.
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  3. #3
    Ajani
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    @ John - That review is in the current issue of Stereophile, so it's not online yet...

    @ Roy - I don't think anyone in our hobby should be surprised by an amp costing $4,200... Even if you'd never pay more than $500 for an amp (regardless of what you can afford), $4,200 is not expensive by "audiophile" standards...

    That's like being into wine tasting and being shocked by a $50 bottle of wine... Even if you only buy $5 wines, you know $50 isn't an expensive wine (by wine tasting standards)...

  4. #4
    RGA
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    I doubt John was implying that you need to spend a lot to get good sound - one of his very favorite speakers is only $7,500 and while that too is expensive IMO it is not expensive by audiophile hobby standards.

  5. #5
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoyY51 View Post
    Michael Fremer of Stereophile just wrote, in describing the Music Reference RM-200 Mk.11 power amplifier: "It costs $4200. If that's your idea of "expensive" (notice the quotes), well, regardless of what you can afford, you're in the wrong hobby."

    Any thoughts?
    As others have said, $4200 isn't expensive by high-end audiophile standards; so far Fremer is right.

    However he steps over the line when he says "you're in the wrong hobby" if you can't or won't pop $4k on an amp. There plenty of opportunities to enjoy the hobby with much cheaper equipment. That is, ready-made equipment and DIY extends the choices even further. Great sound can be had for relatively low cost. For certain you can have a great sounding, complete system for under $4200. More $$ will get you better, but diminishing returns is in play. Value is in the eye of the beholder, of course.

    Fremer's rather typical attitude PO's a lot of people about Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, and various other high-end mags. Whose egos are they stroking? Their snob readers? Or their own?

  6. #6
    Just Another Old Fart
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani View Post
    @ John - That review is in the current issue of Stereophile, so it's not online yet...

    @ Roy - I don't think anyone in our hobby should be surprised by an amp costing $4,200... Even if you'd never pay more than $500 for an amp (regardless of what you can afford), $4,200 is not expensive by "audiophile" standards...

    That's like being into wine tasting and being shocked by a $50 bottle of wine... Even if you only buy $5 wines, you know $50 isn't an expensive wine (by wine tasting standards)...
    I'm not surprised by an amp that costs $4200. I AM surprised by the inference that, unless I'm willing to shell out thousands per component, I am "in the wrong hobby" and not worthy of a seat at the Adult Table. This would seem to be a great way to alienate an already declining readership, as well as discouraging the average listener from even trying to join the club.
    Last edited by RoyY51; 11-14-2011 at 04:51 AM.

  7. #7
    RGA
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    Ooops - For some reason I mixed up Fremer with John Marks - If John Marks had said it I stand by my previous comments.

    Michael Fremer is another matter entirely.

  8. #8
    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    Like most people here I believed that spending huge sums of cash was the way to achieve the best sound. After building my own speakers I realized that this "best" sound could be had for pennies on the dollar with a little sweat equity. More importantly, this opened my mind to see things from the parts cost perspective.

    There is no denying that some of this "very" expensive gear is very good, but most of it's cost is profit for the manufacturer and the middle man. That's understandable and these people need to live too.

    We talk about snake oil and paying exorbitant amounts of money for advertising and "the name", but it's when you open the box and see what's inside, that's when you realize how much of what you've paid is pure profit.

    The point is that people that design and sell this expensive gear do so because there is a market for people with high incomes who are willing to pay big bucks for a very small increment in sound or cosmetics.

    When it comes to the most expensive gear on the market, snake oil is alive and well. They talk of new topologies and new circuitry that enhances the sound, but while they may be technically correct, does it mean that we can hear it?

    Every year, most manufacturers come out with their new model line. The only reason they do this is to spur new sales. To me, this indicates that their previous model is flawed somehow and that makes me wonder what flaws their new models have. I can understand this change when it comes to digital circuitry when new formats or methods of data transmission has changed, but amplification and speaker technologies have changed very little over the years, except in the case of digital amplification which is relatively new.

    I'm just jabbering, but in the end, this stuff that Stereophile pushes is way over priced for what you are getting. I've listened to a $20,000, Class "A" rated" amplifier that didn't sound as good as much lower priced amps (in the systems they were in).

    The bottom line is that there is no set amount of money that determines the quality of audio you get for your dollar. To set a dollar amount on the cost of your gear is ludicrous.

    I used to love Stereophile magazine, but quit my subscription when I realized that the products they were reviewing were only for the rich and famous and were more of a status symbol than a realistic increase in audio quality. I remember a CD player that went for $30,000. Back then, that was the price of a luxury car. Now come on, what justification can they make for that price?

    Well, for what's it worth, that's my opinion.

  9. #9
    Just Another Old Fart
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    As others have said, $4200 isn't expensive by high-end audiophile standards; so far Fremer is right.

    However he steps over the line when he says "you're in the wrong hobby" if you can't or won't pop $4k on an amp. There plenty of opportunities to enjoy the hobby with much cheaper equipment. That is, ready-made equipment and DIY extends the choices even further. Great sound can be had for relatively low cost. For certain you can have a great sounding, complete system for under $4200. More $$ will get you better, but diminishing returns is in play. Value is in the eye of the beholder, of course.

    Fremer's rather typical attitude PO's a lot of people about Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, and various other high-end mags. Whose egos are they stroking? Their snob readers? Or their own?
    I couldn't agree more. We of the Joe Six-Pack persuasion already view most "audiophiles" as people with too much money and too little sense. To this, some will now be tempted to add: "elitist snobs"...if they don't already hold that opinion.
    Last edited by RoyY51; 11-14-2011 at 09:44 AM.

  10. #10
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    Good post Steven.

    Fremer needs to attend DIY Atlanta. It might change his perception that money spent is related to high quality sound.

  11. #11
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    High End = High Income

    Most of us dabble in Mid End and some at Entry Level High End. Very few on this board actually have High End systems. A $4K amp is nothing compared to the VAC top stereo amp at $39,900. High End Audio is for those who have the cash to blow, don't care that you can get similar cheaper and have no interest in DIY. They have MONEY. People with money do not shop at Wal-Mart or K-Mart even if they can get the same product cheaper because they don't want to admit you can.

    Audio is no different than Watches, Cars, Suits, or anything you can think of. A $50 watch tells the same time as a $20k Rolex but a person with money won't be caught dead wearing the cheaper one.

    I can remember when I was buying my Hafler gear back in the day. I would watch guys come into Soundex and drop $20k on a pc of gear. The next week they would be trading it in for $15k and buying something different for $30k.

    Fremer's comment's don't really apply to most of us hear because A- we don't have that kind of cash, and B- we don't really have what they consider High End systems at Stereophile.

    I stopped getting Stereophile many years ago for similar reasons. No real world gear reviewed and only cator to the people with big bucks to toss around.

    I take no offense to the comments because they don't apply to me. My hobby is Audio, not High End Audio.

  12. #12
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoyY51 View Post
    I'm not surprised by an amp that costs $4200. I AM surprised by the inference that, unless I'm willing to shell out thousands per component, I am "in the wrong hobby" and not worthy of a seat at the Adult Table. This would seem to be a great way to alienate an already declining readership, as well as discouraging the average listener from even trying to join the club.

    I see your point. But even then I'm not surprised...

    Snobbery is a part of any hobby involving "luxury goods"... I was thinking about purchasing a Movado Museum Watch a few months ago and checked out a few reviews online, only to see the exact same kind of snobbery that's on audio sites - The Movado was being ripped for basically being "mass market"... If you buy a Honda Accord, the guys with BMW 5s will probably look down on you... On this forum I've had to file numerous complaints to the mods when a member sent me messages accusing me of being "poor and stupid" because I own an Emotiva XPA-2 amp (he owns a Mark Levinson, of course)... So snobbery is just standard in the hobby...

    Snobbery is not going anywhere... So my belief is just to focus on getting the best equipment, for the amount you are willing to spend, and ignore the snobs...

  13. #13
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyfi View Post
    High End = High Income

    Most of us dabble in Mid End and some at Entry Level High End. Very few on this board actually have High End systems. A $4K amp is nothing compared to the VAC top stereo amp at $39,900. High End Audio is for those who have the cash to blow, don't care that you can get similar cheaper and have no interest in DIY. They have MONEY. People with money do not shop at Wal-Mart or K-Mart even if they can get the same product cheaper because they don't want to admit you can.

    Audio is no different than Watches, Cars, Suits, or anything you can think of. A $50 watch tells the same time as a $20k Rolex but a person with money won't be caught dead wearing the cheaper one.

    I can remember when I was buying my Hafler gear back in the day. I would watch guys come into Soundex and drop $20k on a pc of gear. The next week they would be trading it in for $15k and buying something different for $30k.

    Fremer's comment's don't really apply to most of us hear because A- we don't have that kind of cash, and B- we don't really have what they consider High End systems at Stereophile.

    I stopped getting Stereophile many years ago for similar reasons. No real world gear reviewed and only cator to the people with big bucks to toss around.

    I take no offense to the comments because they don't apply to me. My hobby is Audio, not High End Audio.
    I like to refer to High End Audio as Luxury Audio... Yes there are improvements - some in sound, others just in build quality and cosmetics, but the price you pay is extreme - so only the individual can determine whether a product is "worth" the money...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani View Post
    I like to refer to High End Audio as Luxury Audio... Yes there are improvements - some in sound, others just in build quality and cosmetics, but the price you pay is extreme - so only the individual can determine whether a product is "worth" the money...
    Correct. And in most cases, only those with the money to blow will label it Worth The Money. Personally, to me, a $40K amp is not 38 times better than a $2K amp. Better, for sure. Looks, for sure. Build quality, for sure but the sound will not be 38 times better so to someone that does not have cash falling out of their pockets, it will not be worth it. To those with money like Fremer, maybe to them it is, but they could really just be fooling themselves.

  15. #15
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    I read the letters to the editor every month from readers complaining that Stereophile covers too much high end gear. I figured it was mainly the readers with low end gear that were doing the complaining. Now it turns out that some of the posters here are of that opinion. I looked at Nov. Stereophile to see the prices of the reviewed gear. Here is the gear in a nut shell.

    1. Amtrans Passive Controler $2950
    2. Epos Epic 2 Speakers $ 695
    3. Haniwa Phono Pre $5000
    4. Kimber Tonik Cables $ 80
    5. Nordost Flatline Cables $ 157
    6. Energy Connoisseur $ 269
    7. Emotiva Power Amp $ 899
    8. Resolution Audio CD/DAC $6000
    9. Simaudio CD Player $8000
    10. Leben Int Amp $3395
    11. Leben Phono Pre $2695
    12. Luxman Int Amp $5990
    13. Quad Int. Amp $5999

    There are some lower priced items that would fit in all our budgets and some of the others that really sound interesting could be had in a year on Audiogon for much less. That's why I continue to read Stereophile. That and the fact that the guys at my HiFi shop read it while they're waiting for a customer and you guys that have worked in that business know what I mean. It gives us something to talk about when I stop by.
    2 Channel System
    Dynaudio Contour 1.8 Mk II
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    Cary SLP-03 (Preamp)
    Music Hall MMF 5.1 (TT)
    Goldring 1012GX (Cart.)
    Pro-ject SE II (Phono Box)
    Rotel RCD-1072 (CD Player)
    Bryston BDA-1 ( DAC )
    Sennheiser HD-600 (Headphones)
    Musical Fidelity Xcan V3 (Headphone Amp) _

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  16. #16
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack in Wilmington View Post
    I read the letters to the editor every month from readers complaining that Stereophile covers too much high end gear. I figured it was mainly the readers with low end gear that were doing the complaining. Now it turns out that some of the posters here are of that opinion. I looked at Nov. Stereophile to see the prices of the reviewed gear. Here is the gear in a nut shell.

    1. Amtrans Passive Controler $2950
    2. Epos Epic 2 Speakers $ 695
    3. Haniwa Phono Pre $5000
    4. Kimber Tonik Cables $ 80
    5. Nordost Flatline Cables $ 157
    6. Energy Connoisseur $ 269
    7. Emotiva Power Amp $ 899
    8. Resolution Audio CD/DAC $6000
    9. Simaudio CD Player $8000
    10. Leben Int Amp $3395
    11. Leben Phono Pre $2695
    12. Luxman Int Amp $5990
    13. Quad Int. Amp $5999

    There are some lower priced items that would fit in all our budgets and some of the others that really sound interesting could be had in a year on Audiogon for much less. That's why I continue to read Stereophile. That and the fact that the guys at my HiFi shop read it while they're waiting for a customer and you guys that have worked in that business know what I mean. It gives us something to talk about when I stop by.
    You do need to keep in mind that Stereophile has made a far more conscious effort in recent years to review more "affordable" gear... A few years back, the trend towards reviewing the luxurious and exotic was really spiraling out of control... Even the decision to have Stephen Mejas review inexpensive gear was likely part of the strategy to bring things back under control.

  17. #17
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Conclusions
    Those who complain of the ever-increasing prices of high-performance audio gear need only look at the Music Reference RM-200 Mk.II. It provides high performance, high build quality, high reliability and I'm sure, great measurements-all at a low price, considering how much honest musical enjoyment it makes possible. And it's made in America.

    It costs $4200. If that's your idea of "expensive," well regardless of what you can afford, You're in the wrong hobby. It has no blue LEDs, but you can't have everything.



    Reading the conclusion I did not have the same reaction. I am curious what others think when they read the conclusion.
    JohnMichael
    Vinyl Rega Planar 2, Incognito rewire, Deepgroove subplatter, ceramic bearing, Michell Technoweight, Rega 24V motor, TTPSU, Funk Firm Achroplat platter, Michael Lim top and bottom braces, 2 Rega feet and one RDC cone, Ortofon OM20, Moon 110LP/PSU
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  18. #18
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani View Post
    You do need to keep in mind that Stereophile has made a far more conscious effort in recent years to review more "affordable" gear... A few years back, the trend towards reviewing the luxurious and exotic was really spiraling out of control... Even the decision to have Stephen Mejas review inexpensive gear was likely part of the strategy to bring things back under control.
    Oh Yea and I appreciate it. I really enjoy Stephen column. It has a little bit of human interest mixed with his review.
    2 Channel System
    Dynaudio Contour 1.8 Mk II
    Pass Labs X150.5 (Amp)
    Cary SLP-03 (Preamp)
    Music Hall MMF 5.1 (TT)
    Goldring 1012GX (Cart.)
    Pro-ject SE II (Phono Box)
    Rotel RCD-1072 (CD Player)
    Bryston BDA-1 ( DAC )
    Sennheiser HD-600 (Headphones)
    Musical Fidelity Xcan V3 (Headphone Amp) _

    HT System
    Usher X-719 (Mains)
    Usher X-616 (Center)
    Usher S-520 (Surrounds)
    Rel T2 (Subwoofer)
    Anthem MCA20 (Amp)
    Onkyo TX SR-705 (Receiver)
    Panasonic TH-46PZ85U (Plasma TV)
    Denon DBT-1713UD (BluRay/SACD)

  19. #19
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    I use the term DIY losely to include those small one man cottage industry types who hand build their products in basements and garages not for just a side income but for the sheer joy of their craft. Their products are rarely reviewed in audiophile publications and such individuals are far from the mainstream of high end audio yet their products are of the highest order. My friend in Hendersonville, NC builds the mighty GM70 which sells for $35,000 and he's probably lucky to build and sell one a year. I know he's sold a few to oil sheiks. What customers get with the GM70 is a DIY ugly as a mud fence, 3 chassis ungainly amp that dims your lights while reproducing the "Voice of God".

  20. #20
    Just Another Old Fart
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael View Post
    Conclusions
    Those who complain of the ever-increasing prices of high-performance audio gear need only look at the Music Reference RM-200 Mk.II. It provides high performance, high build quality, high reliability and I'm sure, great measurements-all at a low price, considering how much honest musical enjoyment it makes possible. And it's made in America.

    It costs $4200. If that's your idea of "expensive," well regardless of what you can afford, You're in the wrong hobby. It has no blue LEDs, but you can't have everything.



    Reading the conclusion I did not have the same reaction. I am curious what others think when they read the conclusion.
    My conclusion is still the same: if Michael Fremer thinks that I'm "in the wrong hobby" because I can't or won't spend $4200 on a single component, then he's not living in the same world as most of us.

    If someone more technologically oriented than I were to post a poll asking if $4200 was an "expensive" amount to spend on one component, I think my assumption would be verified.

  21. #21
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I am quoting MF again "When the RM-200 was in the system, I wanted for nothing-and for $4,200, that's something.

    In our hobby with some amps costing over $100,000 and he found a $4,200 amp satisfying. Compared to Ultra High End that amp is not expensive. I think it was a backhanded comment that if an audiophile thinks an amp of that quality is expensive wait until they hear the price of the top range amps.
    JohnMichael
    Vinyl Rega Planar 2, Incognito rewire, Deepgroove subplatter, ceramic bearing, Michell Technoweight, Rega 24V motor, TTPSU, Funk Firm Achroplat platter, Michael Lim top and bottom braces, 2 Rega feet and one RDC cone, Ortofon OM20, Moon 110LP/PSU
    Digital
    Sony SCD-XA5400ES SACD/cd, Marantz SA 8001
    Int. Amp Krell S-300i
    Speakers
    Mobile Fidelity OML1's/Bell'O 224 stands
    Cables
    AQ Rocket 44's, Diamondback XLR's & IC's

  22. #22
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Everyone has their panties in a knot but I didn't feel he was taking a personal jab at anyone. It was simply an expression to get a point across. The double entendre is unintentional and makes me think that people are biased about Fremer before he even opens his yap. I am not defending him, but in this case I think he meant no harm.

    Find another hobby...I think he was trying to say, you must accept reality that great audio costs a lot, and generally much more than 5k.

    I am with Poultry on this one...full range horns anyone?

  23. #23
    Just Another Old Fart
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnMichael View Post
    I am quoting MF again "When the RM-200 was in the system, I wanted for nothing-and for $4,200, that's something.

    In our hobby with some amps costing over $100,000 and he found a $4,200 amp satisfying. Compared to Ultra High End that amp is not expensive. I think it was a backhanded comment that if an audiophile thinks an amp of that quality is expensive wait until they hear the price of the top range amps.
    For $4200 he SHOULD have found it satisfying. In my world, it should also wash my car, do my laundry and mow my yard. I do, however, understand the point that you are making.

    But he's still an idiot for saying what he did.

  24. #24
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by poppachubby View Post
    ...
    Find another hobby...I think he was trying to say, you must accept reality that great audio costs a lot, and generally much more than 5k.
    ...
    Ah, come on, Chubbs. He said what he said. He either meant it or he shouldn't have said it. Personally I think he meant it, in which case it shows a contempt for people like most of us here.

  25. #25
    Ajani
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    The problem with this discussion is that none of us really know what Fremer was trying to say... Perhaps his words came out wrong or maybe he meant it to be an insult... Based on Fremer's very vocal stance on all things HiFi it could be either... Best bet might be to ask on the Stereophile forums and see if Fremer responds...

    But frankly, I don't think it really matters... Fremer is just one reviewer at the mag...

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