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  1. #1
    Ajani
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    No relationship between price and quality in HiFi?

    Note: this is not the usual discussion about adding up the cost of parts in a product. That’s been beaten to death, resurrected and killed again way too many times… I’m approaching the pricing issue from a different angle:

    My question has to do with the relative pricing of products in different markets. Take two DACs as an example:

    Benchmark DAC1
    &
    Rega DAC

    In the US both DACs sell for $1K and hence are direct competition for each other. There is already loads of talk about whether the new Rega DAC is better than the Benchmark (and any other $1K DACs).

    On the other hand, In the UK, the Rega sells for 500GBP while the Benchmark goes for 950GBP. Thus they are not direct competition (they are in completely different price categories). The questions over there tend to be more how close does the Rega get to Benchmark level performance at half the price?

    The reason for the differences in prices in the US versus UK is likely due to local duties and taxes. However, that does not explain the difference in perceived quality. Either the Benchmark should be regarded as poor value for money in the UK or the Rega should be seen as poor value in the US. Yet neither is the case. WHY?

    In general US products sell for a lot more in the UK, relative to UK brands. Yet I see no evidence that the US products are seen as poor value compared to UK offerings… Also in the US, there is no evidence that UK products are seen as poor value compared to US offerings….

    So based on these findings; I could take any decent speaker selling for $2K (PSB Imagine T for example), jack the price up to $4K and it would be competitive against $4K speakers. Since most of us claim that there are improvements in sound quality to be gained from spending more money, then shouldn’t it be obvious to consumers and reviewers that the Imagine T is out of its depth at $4K?

    Just check out the relative prices and reviews for US and CDN products on UK sites such as What HiFi? & HiFi Choice. In addition to the Benchmark, you'll see rave reviews for Krell, Parasound Halo, Revel Performa, Totem, etc, despite being up against much higher levels of competition than they face in the US.

    www.whathifi.com & www.techradar.com

    (Note: Stereophile is reviewing the Rega this month, if I'm not mistaken, so I'll be anxious to see if they regard it as good value for money at $1K)...

  2. #2
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    I wouldn't consider any thousand dollar DAC to be a good value. There are too many good DAC kits out there priced around $200 or less that probably sound as good.

  3. #3
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    I wouldn't consider any thousand dollar DAC to be a good value. There are too many good DAC kits out there priced around $200 or less that probably sound as good.
    That's a totally different discusion... DIY has its own appeal... And issues... not everyone is either willing or able to assemble a DIY DAC...

  4. #4
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    I've noticed in some circles the reputation of Goldring cartridges improved when they hiked their prices. The increases were far more significant in the US than in their UK prices. I don't believe that there's a direct relationship between price and quality, but I believe there's some relationship. Maybe Rega has more of a value reputation in the UK than in the US?

    Much of pricing is obviously a matter of what the market will bear. Some people want to pay a little more. Is an Armani suit better quality than a Brooks Brothers?

  5. #5
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    I've noticed in some circles the reputation of Goldring cartridges improved when they hiked their prices. The increases were far more significant in the US than in their UK prices. I don't believe that there's a direct relationship between price and quality, but I believe there's some relationship. Maybe Rega has more of a value reputation in the UK than in the US?

    Much of pricing is obviously a matter of what the market will bear. Some people want to pay a little more. Is an Armani suit better quality than a Brooks Brothers?
    I suspect you may be on to the answer... I know there must be 'some' relationship... No matter how overpriced someone may think a Magico M5 is, unless you are insane, it is clear that the M5 most cost a lot more to produce than a Paradigm Atom...

    However, I suspect much of it comes down to as you say 'what the market will bear'.

    That is sad though, as it shows IMO that a lot of the differences we claim between products are really due to price bias and not audible differences....

  6. #6
    cyh
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    .....or that people tend to listen with their eyes?

  7. #7
    RGA
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    People get seduced by the notion of "import" - Mercedes isn't very good - but it's foreign and if you charge $70,000 for an unreliable piece of garbage that happens to go at high speeds people eat it up.

    Also, it is not true in all cases that a reviews are not negatively swayed. Depends on what they compare. Bryston's integrated amp in their shootout got a mere 3 stars which is pretty terrible considering most everything gets 4 or 5. But in that particular test it was going up against a Sugden A21a. The Bryston over there cost more than the Sugden while in Canada it's pretty close to the same price. Either way the Sugden stomps it so it really doesn''t matter what the prices are but it is certainly bad value if you have to pay a few hundred pounds more.

    You also have to factor in the ears. American reviewers who are used to the more in your face sound - may view the Brit sound as better simply because it has a different take on things - and people are a sucker for the British accent

    People are also often swayed by price - if it costs more it must be better. While that is true a lot it isn't always.

    I have never quite understood the appeal of Rega digital. I never really liked the Planet when it was getting raves and I never much liked their amplifiers. Maybe the new stuff is better and perhaps the Brit magazines kind of know Rega better and because they're used to the sound they are better at spotting the weaknesses compared to the Benchmark. The Rega review in Stereophile will only be useful if the reviewer has actually heard good quality DACs like the Benchmark in the sub $2k price class.

  8. #8
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    People get seduced by the notion of "import" - Mercedes isn't very good - but it's foreign and if you charge $70,000 for an unreliable piece of garbage that happens to go at high speeds people eat it up.

    Also, it is not true in all cases that a reviews are not negatively swayed. Depends on what they compare. Bryston's integrated amp in their shootout got a mere 3 stars which is pretty terrible considering most everything gets 4 or 5. But in that particular test it was going up against a Sugden A21a. The Bryston over there cost more than the Sugden while in Canada it's pretty close to the same price. Either way the Sugden stomps it so it really doesn''t matter what the prices are but it is certainly bad value if you have to pay a few hundred pounds more.

    You also have to factor in the ears. American reviewers who are used to the more in your face sound - may view the Brit sound as better simply because it has a different take on things - and people are a sucker for the British accent

    People are also often swayed by price - if it costs more it must be better. While that is true a lot it isn't always.

    I have never quite understood the appeal of Rega digital. I never really liked the Planet when it was getting raves and I never much liked their amplifiers. Maybe the new stuff is better and perhaps the Brit magazines kind of know Rega better and because they're used to the sound they are better at spotting the weaknesses compared to the Benchmark. The Rega review in Stereophile will only be useful if the reviewer has actually heard good quality DACs like the Benchmark in the sub $2k price class.
    Paying premium just because its a foreign import is no better than buying because it is expensive... Either way, sound quality is not your priority...

    As for the Bryston review you mention (HiFi Choice if I'm not mistaken); just about every brand gets at least one 3 star review from either HiFi Choice or What HiFi? Check out the Bryston reviews on What HiFi and you'll see a line of 4 and 5 star reviews despite some really high prices relative to the competition... So I don't see that one bad review of the Bryston as out of the ordinary compared to local (UK) brands...

  9. #9
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    Ajani, you make a valid point.

    I remember the NAD 545 CDP getting a rave review in a British magazine, when I auditioned it I didn't understand how it got the raves. Maybe it was cheaper in the UK.... I didn't think it was a bad machine just not the giant killer it was wrote up to be.

    I don't really want to create a list as not to offend or get off topic but there are certainly brands that I find don't warrant the price. I guess we really have to learn to trust our own ears.

  10. #10
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    I wouldn't know what the British would do, but I have a hard time believing Americans would pay more because a stereo component is imported. I think we'd pay more for American gear.

  11. #11
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    I wouldn't consider any thousand dollar DAC to be a good value. There are too many good DAC kits out there priced around $200 or less that probably sound as good.
    I disagree...The Bel Canto DAC 1.5, and 2.5 in my opinioni is worth the money they are asking...especially seeing they can be a stand alone DAC or DAC and preamp.
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  12. #12
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    I am pretty good at spending a lot of money on HIFI. Even tough i have told this story before, some might find it interesting. I once offered for testing purposes only my Apogee Grand speakers on the german audio market. I do not remember the exact prices but something like 50000€ and got absolutely no response. I pulled the ad and re listed for way over 150000€ and got 3 inquiries. Some people filter by the price, but those people are not interested in value. They see what they like and the price is secondary.

    Cheers
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

  13. #13
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    I am pretty good at spending a lot of money on HIFI. Even tough i have told this story before, some might find it interesting. I once offered for testing purposes only my Apogee Grand speakers on the german audio market. I do not remember the exact prices but something like 50000€ and got absolutely no response. I pulled the ad and re listed for way over 150000€ and got 3 inquiries. Some people filter by the price, but those people are not interested in value. They see what they like and the price is secondary.

    Cheers
    SAME thing on a smaller scale...
    My country preacher granddad could sell anything to anybody.
    WHEN BUSINESS got slow at the store he was working at, they would jack the prices up
    and put everything on the sidewalk for a "sidewalk sale". Always worked.
    And the value of higher priced electronics has always been problematic, because of
    the law of diminishing returns.
    BETWEEN , say a hundred bucks and a thousand, you get a rather large return,
    a large improvement. BETWEEN a thousand and a hundred thousand the improvement is less. So high end electronics are usually gussied up to make up for the fact that
    the "improvement" in performance is rather marginal.
    Human nature works in reverse, of course. People see expensive gear and think that
    it must be something special.
    If you don't care about "status" the best bargain on earth is electronics selling for
    around a grand, except speakers, which have rules of their own.
    To get more performance, the cost will be higher and higher for less and less as you go
    along. The law of diminishing returns, the most important and most ignored rule
    in this hobby.
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  14. #14
    Charm Thai™
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    Uh, dollar bills don't have ears...your head does. Buy what sounds good to your ears, simple as that. Who cares how much a piece of gear costs depending on where in the world it is sold? What does that have to do with the way it sounds? If you are constantly counting your precious pennies Ajani you'll never be satisfied.

  15. #15
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheHills44060
    Uh, dollar bills don't have ears...your head does. Buy what sounds good to your ears, simple as that. Who cares how much a piece of gear costs depending on where in the world it is sold? What does that have to do with the way it sounds? If you are constantly counting your precious pennies Ajani you'll never be satisfied.
    I'd suggest reading the original post to understand what the discussion is about... It has nothing to do with counting pennies...

  16. #16
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    Ajani, you make a valid point.

    I remember the NAD 545 CDP getting a rave review in a British magazine, when I auditioned it I didn't understand how it got the raves. Maybe it was cheaper in the UK.... I didn't think it was a bad machine just not the giant killer it was wrote up to be.

    I don't really want to create a list as not to offend or get off topic but there are certainly brands that I find don't warrant the price. I guess we really have to learn to trust our own ears.
    That's what I'd expect to happen given the price differences; audiophiles like yourself should be left scratching their heads and wondering why some products cost so much, when they don't deliver the level of performance of other similar products at the same price... Yet neither the pro nor consumer reviews show that people are noticing any lack of quality for the money...

    If I attempted to sell a Honda Civic for the price of a BMW 3, I'd expect car experts (and even average consumers) to notice that there is a substantial difference in quality between the two... Yet in audio I could do the same thing and no one would notice... In fact many persons would rave about how great the Civic is, and argue at length about how much better it is than the BMW....

  17. #17
    Ajani
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by pixelthis
    SAME thing on a smaller scale...
    My country preacher granddad could sell anything to anybody.
    WHEN BUSINESS got slow at the store he was working at, they would jack the prices up
    and put everything on the sidewalk for a "sidewalk sale". Always worked.
    And the value of higher priced electronics has always been problematic, because of
    the law of diminishing returns.
    BETWEEN , say a hundred bucks and a thousand, you get a rather large return,
    a large improvement. BETWEEN a thousand and a hundred thousand the improvement is less. So high end electronics are usually gussied up to make up for the fact that
    the "improvement" in performance is rather marginal.
    Human nature works in reverse, of course. People see expensive gear and think that
    it must be something special.
    If you don't care about "status" the best bargain on earth is electronics selling for
    around a grand, except speakers, which have rules of their own.
    To get more performance, the cost will be higher and higher for less and less as you go
    along. The law of diminishing returns, the most important and most ignored rule
    in this hobby.
    To add to what you and Florian have said:

    In Jamaica, we have a number of shops that sell electronics/clothes/jewelry. And no matter what price is listed on the item, you will be offered a massive discount by the sales rep... So they always try and hustle you into thinking you got a great deal because the item was priced at $200 and they sold you it for $150... Yet in reality, the item probably should have been priced at $130 to start...

  18. #18
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    Paying premium just because its a foreign import is no better than buying because it is expensive... Either way, sound quality is not your priority...

    As for the Bryston review you mention (HiFi Choice if I'm not mistaken); just about every brand gets at least one 3 star review from either HiFi Choice or What HiFi? Check out the Bryston reviews on What HiFi and you'll see a line of 4 and 5 star reviews despite some really high prices relative to the competition... So I don't see that one bad review of the Bryston as out of the ordinary compared to local (UK) brands...
    What Hi-fi isn't Hi-fi Choice - be careful there. Their star system is often relative to what is in the test that particular issue. Something that gets a 5 star in one shootout might only get 4 in another. I find most of that dumb anyway since Sugden got 4 stars in What Hi-fo vs a Roksan that won their shootout even though they said the Sugden sounded the best. So they weight things heavily on things that don't relate to sound quality.

    Hi Fi Choice listens level matched and blind. This isn't to say What Hi-Fi is worthless but it's not in the same class. Though Hi-Fi Choice has become a little more (too much so) like What Hi-Fi in recent years.

    The problem with the Honda BMW analogy is that there are a LOT more things to consider in a car than audio - in audio it is the sound reproduction and that is pretty much the only consideration - maybe features and for some who have power pig speakers will be limited as to what they can purchase.

    With a car - Some people buy for reliability and Honda beats the ever loving snot out of Mercedes and BMW. The Honda Fit is more reliable than ANY Mercedes in the last 20 years - even though you can pay 10 times the price. The fit is FAR better for the environment too - sucks way less gas. If you buy based on these criteria the Fit beats Mercedes and it's not close. If you can get your hands on Phil Ednonston's Lemon-Aid - sold at Chapters in Canada then you can see the results of why pretty much every BMW and Mercedes is not recommended. And even on safety it is surprising that neither make is all that great for the money.

    Now if you are talking performance, handling, speed and fancy comforts and electronic gizmos then yeah the Fit loses but for the actual operation of a motor vehicle at legal posted speed limits then Honda stomps the Germans - and Hyundai and certain Kia models do an even better job in the reliability, safety departments over Honda and Toyota.

    Scroll down to 10 biggest auto myths - number 2 http://www.lemonaidcars.com/forecasts.html#myths
    Last edited by RGA; 04-27-2011 at 09:09 PM.

  19. #19
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    What Hi-fi isn't Hi-fi Choice - be careful there. Their star system is often relative to what is in the test that particular issue. Something that gets a 5 star in one shootout might only get 4 in another. I find most of that dumb anyway since Sugden got 4 stars in What Hi-fo vs a Roksan that won their shootout even though they said the Sugden sounded the best. So they weight things heavily on things that don't relate to sound quality.

    Hi Fi Choice listens level matched and blind. This isn't to say What Hi-Fi is worthless but it's not in the same class. Though Hi-Fi Choice has become a little more (too much so) like What Hi-Fi in recent years.

    The problem with the Honda BMW analogy is that there are a LOT more things to consider in a car than audio - in audio it is the sound reproduction and that is pretty much the only consideration - maybe features and for some who have power pig speakers will be limited as to what they can purchase.

    With a car - Some people buy for reliability and Honda beats the ever loving snot out of Mercedes and BMW. The Honda Fit is more reliable than ANY Mercedes in the last 20 years - even though you can pay 10 times the price. The fit is FAR better for the environment too - sucks way less gas. If you buy based on these criteria the Fit beats Mercedes and it's not close. If you can get your hands on Phil Ednonston's Lemon-Aid - sold at Chapters in Canada then you can see the results of why pretty much every BMW and Mercedes is not recommended. And even on safety it is surprising that neither make is all that great for the money.

    Now if you are talking performance, handling, speed and fancy comforts and electronic gizmos then yeah the Fit loses but for the actual operation of a motor vehicle at legal posted speed limits then Honda stomps the Germans - and Hyundai and certain Kia models do an even better job in the reliability, safety departments over Honda and Toyota.

    Scroll down to 10 biggest auto myths - number 2 http://www.lemonaidcars.com/forecasts.html#myths
    I have no issue with your points about the reliability of Honda compared to BMW/Mercedes... Many luxury cars are unreliable crap... however, the point still remains that it should be obvious to anyone that a BMW 3 is a far more expensive car than a Honda Fit, based on "performance, handling, speed and fancy comforts and electronic gizmos"... Much the same way that in audio 2 things should suggest that a product is of lower value: sound quality and build quality... The most I've seen mentioned on a Krell review in the UK was that the aesthetics seemed sub-par for the price point, however they felt the sound quality was outstanding... Despite the amp going for about double it's US price (and competing with UK amps normally selling for double its price)...

    Now if (as so many audiophiles and reviewers claim) the differences in sound quality between cheaper and more expensive products are substantial, then a product selling at double its MSRP should sound sub-par for that price point... So even if the build quality isn't a give away, that the product is overpriced, then the sound quality should be... If the sound quality isn't, then either persons are listening with their eyes (sighted bias) or the differences are so small, that they could easily be overlooked (diminishing returns according to some)...

  20. #20
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    I cant confirm that, my Audi or my wife's Mercedes is much more reliable and comfortable then my parents Opel or our old Fiat Punto..... and safer too ;-)
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

  21. #21
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    I cant confirm that, my Audi or my wife's Mercedes is much more reliable and comfortable then my parents Opel or our old Fiat Punto..... and safer too ;-)
    I know nothing about Opel or Fiat, but I would ask whether the Audi or Mercedes are more reliable than Honda or Toyota....

  22. #22
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    It is common knowledge (and well-documented at that) that Honda cars are more "reliable" than Mercedes. If you forever tie yourself to that one criterion, you never get to drive a very nice car. The best cars have some innovative technology in them that sometimes requires repair.

  23. #23
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    It is common knowledge (and well-documented at that) that Honda cars are more "reliable" than Mercedes. If you forever tie yourself to that one criterion, you never get to drive a very nice car. The best cars have some innovative technology in them that sometimes requires repair.
    Which is fine... As long as the persons buying the luxury car know the compromise they accept... I have no issue with someone choosing to buy a Mercedes over an Accord, but they should know that the Mercedes is not more reliable... Though it will better the Accord in a range of different categories...

  24. #24
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    It is common knowledge (and well-documented at that) that Honda cars are more "reliable" than Mercedes. If you forever tie yourself to that one criterion, you never get to drive a very nice car. The best cars have some innovative technology in them that sometimes requires repair.
    That's a fair point and I did note that. performance - sometimes that comes at the expense of needing more work - gee like tube amps and turntables - they need more work from the owner and they sound better :-)

  25. #25
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    I have no issue with your points about the reliability of Honda compared to BMW/Mercedes... Many luxury cars are unreliable crap... however, the point still remains that it should be obvious to anyone that a BMW 3 is a far more expensive car than a Honda Fit, based on "performance, handling, speed and fancy comforts and electronic gizmos"... Much the same way that in audio 2 things should suggest that a product is of lower value: sound quality and build quality... The most I've seen mentioned on a Krell review in the UK was that the aesthetics seemed sub-par for the price point, however they felt the sound quality was outstanding... Despite the amp going for about double it's US price (and competing with UK amps normally selling for double its price)...

    Now if (as so many audiophiles and reviewers claim) the differences in sound quality between cheaper and more expensive products are substantial, then a product selling at double its MSRP should sound sub-par for that price point... So even if the build quality isn't a give away, that the product is overpriced, then the sound quality should be... If the sound quality isn't, then either persons are listening with their eyes (sighted bias) or the differences are so small, that they could easily be overlooked (diminishing returns according to some)...
    Ahh yes I get what you are saying here. The price in a different market doubles and they still like it against other products.

    Do you have any tube amp examples. Solid State examples don't surprise me too much since I've long felt expensive Solid State is merely audio jewelry.

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