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Is The Law of Diminishing Returns A Myth?

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  • Is The Law of Diminishing Returns A Myth?

    But repeat something a million times and it becomes a fact.

    Case in point. How do you evaluate the rate of return?

    Is ROI really a biphasic curve? Should it be linear? Or is it non-linear with parts that are linear and parts where you hit a plateau? Or even portions where ROI actually goes down due to mistakes? Sure seems like a problem with someone trying to oversimplify the situation. And we know what happens when try to oversimplify things!

    Aren’t there some improvements in your system that you would pay nearly anything to get? Like the VISA commercial, there is no price that one can put on that improvement if that new product excels in an area that really rocks your boat,

    Thoughts?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

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  • #2
    I believe it to be true, especially when a lot of the systems we build are in the top 5%.

    Chasing better then different can and will get expensive!

    Source Analog: Kuzma Stabi R with 4point 9 arm & Kuzma 40 Cartridge
    Source Digital: Aurender N10 | Brinkmann Nyquist MK II
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    • #3
      Diminishing returns reminds me of Zeno's Paradox of Infinity. Suppose that Achilles and the Tortoise are going to run a race, but since Achilles is so much faster than the Tortoise, the Tortoise gets a head start. Will Achilles win the race? Zeno says no. His argument is as follows. In order to catch up with the Tortoise, Achilles first has to get to wherever the Tortoise is now. However, once Achilles gets there, the Tortoise will have moved forward, so Achilles is still behind, and hence the story repeats. But, this means that there is no end to the process of Achilles trying to catch up with the Tortoise. Hence, Achilles won't be able to catch up with the Tortoise.

      My point as it relates to diminishing returns in audio is that we can never reach our goals if we stop running to achieve them.

      But our goals are more like dreams, they are ephemeral. And usually just out of reach just like the Tortoise.

      However, we can choose to stop at any time and be happy. Of course, the biggest lie in audio is saying "I'm done".

      Comment


      • #4
        We assume changes are "positive"- to your point- perhaps we go below the line with alterations. For most of us this means errors and the changes are related to affordability which is an overarching variable.

        The biggest error I see is people throwing money at the system that always end up lateral or different. For fundamental change - often- but not always big $ are required.. then you have to decide if you are changing the "parameters" or just the "variables" most people hate change and risk ..... even in audio- especially when it involves cash.

        Front end: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 Power Supplies and Volume controls
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        • mep
          mep commented
          Editing a comment
          The biggest changes to your system sonically occur when you replace the transducers in your system. This means speakers for all audiophiles and cartridges for the analog people.

      • #5
        I think using the term "ROI" for audio is a misnomer. ROI is usually reserved for investments that are expected to make money and you can calculate how much your investment earned. Knowing that unless you are into purchasing certain vintage gear, all of your audio purchases are losing money from the day of purchase. Audio is all about purchasing depreciating assets.

        So now we are left with trying to figure out what incremental audio improvement we are receiving for spending more of our money. On top of that, there is no way of measuring the overall performance increase or decrease of your system after you purchase a new piece of gear or some tweak. All you can do is give your subjective impressions of what you hear for the dollars you spent.
        Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

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        • #6
          If the source is never correct, as in people say once you capture live on a recording medium, the magic is gone. Well then, you are never going to get live sound from your sysrem.

          fwiw, repeating it does not make it fact. It becomes a lie you believe. Yet as George Castanza said, if you believe it y yourself, its not a lie.

          There are purchase I have made I am happy with, and others I sold. My curve of success looks more the the sea. Differeing wave heights with peaks and valleys. And those wave are daily affected by the utility power, my dimmer switches and RFI impacting my system. Maybe also my psyche.
          PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
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          Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

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          • #7
            the value I receive from expending time and resources on anything should be proportional to the joy it brings me, that's my expectation. By my way of thinking, if you only have 10 hrs. a week to sit, listen and be immersed in your audio system then whatever you 'spent' assembling it might be too high. That's the converse of ROI, opportunity cost (especially your time, which is the most valuable resource anyone has).
            Linn Kilmax LP12 | Channel D | Valvet | Wadia | Innuos | Klipsch Cornwall IV | Falcon LS3/5a

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            • #8
              "return on investment" and law of "diminishing returns" refer to two different phenomena. Diminishing returns, as it refers to the amount of incremental improvement with increased costs, is (almost) always true in anything, especially when the incremental cost is figured as an absolute increase rather than as a percentage increase. One could look at it as analogous to an axiom in geometry (rather than something which could be proven, such as an hypothesis or a theorem). The one time it might not be true would be when increased expenditure (time, money, effort, etc) results in a true paradigm shift, for example were a true cure for cancer to be developed. The work leading up to something like that would certainly show diminishing returns, right up to the point where the true "cure" were discovered, at which point the return would far exceed the cost. I'm not sure what such an event would be in the audio world, but that's sort of the point; you won't know it until it happens (hint: it's not MQA )
              Modwright Oppo 205 full tube mod
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              REL S3
              Daedalus/Wywires and Acoustic Zen cables
              Torus IS5

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              • #9
                Is The Law of Diminishing Returns A Myth?
                I'd say no but it depends on what the goal is and who's judging the return. If the goal is to have a really nice stereo that plays vinyl well then you don't need to go past my setup. If the goal is to approach what's on the master tape (not the actual live performance) of an orchestra playing Beethoven's 5th with it's full impact then you'll have to step up the game and possibly push the budget and decimal point one or two places to the right! The subjective sound quality of a $2 million system wouldn't be 100x better than a $20k system of well matched gear. The satisfaction curve probably drops off fairly quickly after $100k, perhaps even less, of well chosen gear. Possibly only blind testing of a large sample would answer the question for certain. However, Joe down the street might disagree with the consensus.
                Last edited by shawnwes; 02-06-2020, 05:17 AM.
                "I'm...a rather simple person with a limited talent and perhaps a limited perspective"...Bill Evans

                LP playback: Ariston RD 11 Superieur, Audiomods Series 6 Tonearm, Dynavector DV DRT XV-1s, Valab LCR MkIII, Target wall-mounted turntable shelf

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                • #10
                  I think the Law of Diminishing Returns is part myth and part reality. Most say that incremental sound kicks in after you spend $X dollars. The smaller the number, the less experience the opinion provider usually has in my opinion.

                  I say this in large part because of my experience hearing the Wilson WAMMs at Dave's house. That was truly a lifelike experience with music. A well-above million-dollar system but a whole new level of musicality and accuracy in reproduced music.

                  I've experienced the same in DACs. As great as the Bartok is, does the Rossini V2 make incremental improvements? I would say no. I heard a big step up which surprised me because I believe the Bartok is awesome in many ways. But the improvements from the Rossini were significant, not incremental.

                  It's a sad reality of audiophile life that more money is often required for the best sound. But that "crazy priced" technology often leads to the best entry level gear so we all benefit.
                  President, Nextscreen LLC, publisher of The Absolute Sound, hifi+, and WindingRoad.com

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                  • #11
                    Originally posted by LeeScoggins View Post
                    I think the Law of Diminishing Returns is part myth and part reality. Most say that incremental sound kicks in after you spend $X dollars. The smaller the number, the less experience the opinion provider usually has in my opinion.

                    I say this in large part because of my experience hearing the Wilson WAMMs at Dave's house. That was truly a lifelike experience with music. A well-above million-dollar system but a whole new level of musicality and accuracy in reproduced music.

                    I've experienced the same in DACs. As great as the Bartok is, does the Rossini V2 make incremental improvements? I would say no. I heard a big step up which surprised me because I believe the Bartok is awesome in many ways. But the improvements from the Rossini were significant, not incremental.

                    It's a sad reality of audiophile life that more money is often required for the best sound. But that "crazy priced" technology often leads to the best entry level gear so we all benefit.
                    "But repeat something a million times and it becomes a fact." is the opening to this thread, so if we keep perpetuating the axiom that only money buys the best sounding audio equipment then we'll have to agree to disagree. To quote Ralph Karsten, The "intent" is more important than the money spent, I find this to be true time and again. "The bigger they are, the harder they fall" is a reoccurring theme at many audio shows, I'm usually most disappointed by the million dollar and above rooms because many fail to bring me any closer to the music than 'attainable' systems that many audiophiles could actually afford.
                    Linn Kilmax LP12 | Channel D | Valvet | Wadia | Innuos | Klipsch Cornwall IV | Falcon LS3/5a

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by mep View Post
                      I think using the term "ROI" for audio is a misnomer. ROI is usually reserved for investments that are expected to make money and you can calculate how much your investment earned. Knowing that unless you are into purchasing certain vintage gear, all of your audio purchases are losing money from the day of purchase. Audio is all about purchasing depreciating assets.

                      So now we are left with trying to figure out what incremental audio improvement we are receiving for spending more of our money. On top of that, there is no way of measuring the overall performance increase or decrease of your system after you purchase a new piece of gear or some tweak. All you can do is give your subjective impressions of what you hear for the dollars you spent.
                      I agree with Mep's comments completely. ROI really does not apply to audio gear unless you are buying vintage gear as an investment. The gear that makes up the majority of our systems begins depreciating the moment it leaves the dealer. Same concept applies to your car or any other depreciating asset.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        I think this really depends on where the extra money is being spent. Often, a piece of gear is more expensive because the manufacturer wants consumers to think that it is superior. In that case, of course, the extra money just goes into the profit margin, and does not buy any extra performance. Money that goes into fancier chassis, more expensive connectors etc. in my experience doesn't amount to better performance. At the other end of the spectrum, gurus such as John Curl can squeeze a lot more performance by tweaking the circuit design without incurring any extra expense. Overall, I find certain upgrades to have a big improvement in sound quality, such as high quality transformers (esp. output transformers, but also power trannies), better circuit boards, high quality foil or wirewound resistors, silver internal wiring, beryllium diaphragms (a fantastic upgrade for compression drivers), field coils, plasma tweeters and of course high quality tubes. Things I find the cost of which has little correlation with sound quality include cables (signal, interconnect or power), thick heavy chassis, "audiophile" capacitors and "audiophile" connectors. I don't mean cables or capacitors make no difference, only that many expensive ones do not justify their price. For example, I have compared many expensive interconnects with my home made cables made from teflon coated pure silver wire, and I have not found any commercial cables that are obviously better. Same with my pure silver foil speaker cables. Capacitors are even worse. I have had so much problem with some of these audiophile caps that I have given up, and now only use mil grade industrial film caps. I have measured many of these super expensive audiophile caps, and the ESR and leakage of some of these are atrocious, shameful really. This simply reflects the shoddiness of their workmanship, and would have been rejected for industrial applications. And anyone using RCA connectors should stop wasting money on expensive plugs. I find the cheapest plugs with the thinnest copper sound best. Better still, change them to Lemo connectors. I use Lemo Redel connectors that are non-magnetic (designed for medical equipment) and these have silver conductors. The biggest improvement in my opinion is to run everything balanced (including signal circuits), which could become expensive (double the number of tubes etc.) but well worth the expense and effort.

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