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Point of Diminishing Returns for High-End Audio

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  • Point of Diminishing Returns for High-End Audio

    1. Does the point of diminishing returns apply to all systems and individual components?

    2. Are there certain components eg.digital front-ends, speakers, amplifiers, etc. where you get more for your money as you invest in your system than others?

    3. Can the room affect the point of diminishing returns?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

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  • #2
    analog front ends and speakers give you more for your money than any other components
    Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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    • #3
      The point of diminishing returns is that one little spot above what I can afford LOL

      Kidding aside, I think it's a state of mind. We hobbyists put a lot of weight on small improvements mainly because these are already on sound foundations. Maybe another question that can be asked is at what lower point could we be satisfied enough. I'll bet that that point will take into consideration many factors like space, lifestyle, company and the like. For me that would be a system that can play cleanly yet sweetly, have good harmonics and goes down at least to 30Hz while blending into the architectural flow of the space I put it in. I could live with that

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      • Garth
        Garth commented
        Editing a comment
        Well said .

      • JackD201
        JackD201 commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks Garth

    • #4
      Originally posted by JackD201 View Post
      The point of diminishing returns is that one little spot above what I can afford LOL

      Kidding aside, I think it's a state of mind. We hobbyists put a lot of weight on small improvements mainly because these are already on sound foundations. Maybe another question that can be asked is at what lower point could we be satisfied enough. I'll bet that that point will take into consideration many factors like space, lifestyle, company and the like. For me that would be a system that can play cleanly yet sweetly, have good harmonics and goes down at least to 30Hz while blending into the architectural flow of the space I put it in. I could live with that
      This is a convincing argument. The point of going over the edge will undoubtedly be different for each individual and even more diverse if we look at how much weight each individual will be putting into each part of their systems. As a simple example, I'm very content with my CJ Premier 16 preamp. Yes, I'd love an ART3, but for that amount of capital outlay I preferred to rather invest in as good a digital source I could persuade myself to buy.

      Why not an analog source? Because the amount of good quality records we have at our disposal down here in Africa is really limited and getting hold of the new stuff is just absolutely silly money and fairly risky with our postal system. I view myself as a musicphile first and secondly an audiophile so if it means I can have much more good music readily available I will pursue that avenue to exhaustion.
      dCS Paganini 4-stack, Linn Sondek Cirkus Lingo Trampolin, Shelter 9000, EAR834p, CJ Premier 16LS Rohm Z-Foil, CJ Premier 12's Rohm Z-Foil Teflon KT120, Audio Exklusiv P3.1, JL Audio F113, Towshend Super Tweeters, Audio Exklusiv d.C.d Base, Feet, Silent Plugs. Cables: AudioQuest Sky, Volcano, Coffee AES/EBU, Furutech AG-12, Mains: Transparent Reference XL, Shunyata Python, PS Audio, Furutech plugs, PS Audio Dectet x 2, Hi-Fi Tuning Cryo & Fuses. Dedicated Mains Spur.

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      • #5
        Originally posted by L3AND3R View Post

        This is a convincing argument. The point of going over the edge will undoubtedly be different for each individual and even more diverse if we look at how much weight each individual will be putting into each part of their systems. As a simple example, I'm very content with my CJ Premier 16 preamp. Yes, I'd love an ART3, but for that amount of capital outlay I preferred to rather invest in as good a digital source I could persuade myself to buy.

        Why not an analog source? Because the amount of good quality records we have at our disposal down here in Africa is really limited and getting hold of the new stuff is just absolutely silly money and fairly risky with our postal system. I view myself as a musicphile first and secondly an audiophile so if it means I can have much more good music readily available I will pursue that avenue to exhaustion.
        Being in Africa, makes you one of the better candidates for hi rez digital downloads.
        Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mpmp) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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        • #6
          Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
          1. Does the point of diminishing returns apply to all systems and individual components?

          2. Are there certain components eg.digital front-ends, speakers, amplifiers, etc. where you get more for your money as you invest in your system than others?

          3. Can the room affect the point of diminishing returns?
          This reminds me of that paradox- i think it was Zeno's Dichotomy- where you never get "there" because you can always split the distance to the objective by increasingly small fractions.

          3. Let me take the easy one first- the room. It is the elephant in the system. It has a huge effect on sonics, as does set up and placement, so I have to believe it affects the point of diminishing returns. In fact, I don't think you have fully realized what a system can do without taking the room into account and addressing it.

          2. I'm not sure I know the answer to this-- the price of quality digital playback seems to have come down but isn't there always an improvement right around the corner, since it is still a less mature technology than analog and there are still different standards and approaches evolving? So, cost-effectiveness there has a short shelf-life, doesn't it? (I guess one factor related to the point of diminishing returns, i.e., where the cost may outweigh the incremental benefit, is the longevity of the benefit). In other words, if you can obtain the very edge of the state of art more easily and cheaply with, say, computer based audio using a stand-alone DAC, but the changes in technology render the DAC obsolete more quickly than, say, a turntable/arm/cartridge, is the "ultimate" digital front end really "cheaper" in the long run if you have to keep replacing it? (I'm speculating here, since I don't really do digital in any serious way).

          1. Perhaps this is too facile, but if your aim is to have a good "middle class retro" system from the receiver/big bookshelf era, with a period turntable, aren't you going to reach the limit quicker than trying to obtain modern state of the art playback? Remember Bridget Fonda's line in Jackie Brown, where Samuel Jackson tells her sitting around all day, smoking dope and watching TV is robbing her of ambition? Her response was something like: "Not if your ambition is to get stoned and watch TV all day." In other words, the goal defines how closely you are getting to it, which takes us back to the paradox I mentioned above.

          This is like "audio philosophy" (perhaps sophistry): fun to think about, but always different in practice than in theory, right?

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          • #7
            Oh and I missed Myles' number 3. I really believe the room does affect diminishing returns greatly depending on how bad that room is that is. Now personally I think the treatment craze has gone a bit over the top vogue wise. It's actually really shocking how much one can do with everyday items at home if you happen to luck out on a room that isn't an empty swimming pool. LOL. One can just get plain lucky period. That said, in a room with many anomalies, nothing will sound good. No returns to diminish! If one chooses to endeavor towards a really quiet room with short uniform or linear decay times then you get the double edge sword. Recorded foot falls or page music turning can be cute but also distracting. Same goes for things like print through. Stuff important perhaps if one is working on a track but much less so for someone out for a casual spin of a platter, transport or drive. It is perhaps best recommended for folks who actually enjoy trouble shooting in order to reap the rewards that can take months to catch....like me!

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            • #8
              The point of diminishing returns is telling your wife the price and why you need it.

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              • MylesBAstor
                MylesBAstor commented
                Editing a comment
                I didn't mean diminishing returns to your home!

            • #9
              There is no such thing as diminishing returns if you have unlimited funds.

              If you are investing in an expensive high end system and haven't treated your room, what's the point - it will make nearly as much difference as new speakers and cost much less.
              Last edited by mkuller; 09-11-2016, 04:40 PM.
              Thiel 7.2s, Manley NeoClassic 250s, Wadia 850, MIT Oracle V3 speaker cables, MIT MI-350 Oracle interconnects, Black Diamond Racing Shelves and Cones in a dedicated room with ASC Tube Traps, Room Tunes and 3 X 20 amp dedicated circuits.

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              • #10
                If a buyer is satisfied paying mucho dineros for a slight increase in performance he/she is obviously not concerned about it.
                Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables

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                • #11
                  It all depends on your wallet and what audiophile status one is trying to obtain.
                  Chris
                  ----------------------------------------------------------------
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