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PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2018 10:42 pm 
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Location: Everett, WA, US
I was sitting listening to music the other night and my son-in-law was over. He came and joined me and while changing an LP, my son-in-law asked me this: "Dad, just what is the high end and how is it determined? Is is by expense, brand, sound quality or just what?" That might not be the exact quote but it is pretty close. I somewhat went with the sound quality answer but even that is not a bright line answer to his question. I honestly could not give him a real strong, definitive answer so it go me thinking; is the definition of the high end somewhat akin to Justice Potter Stewart's famous saying about obscenity / pornography; " I know it when I see it", or in this case "I know it when I hear it".
Not to sound snobbish but there are some brands of audio equipment that when I hear the name I automatically think "mid-fi" and not "high end". To be kind to myself, I go with that reaction based on previous exposure to the brand and its performance, not just an outright dismissal and I guess said brands could be capable of high end performance but then again, that begs the question of just what is the high end? Is the high end one of those things that is unique to the owner/seller/ listener or is there really a "measuring stick" of what is the high end? :?
So I seek guidance and sage advice from brother (and sister) audiophiles. I did not "Google" the phrase "high end" as I was wanting real human input from those who have been in this hobby (obsession?) for a spell.
Many thanks...


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:38 am 
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The word high end implies expensive. Its just semantics. If a piece of cheap overachieving audio gear equals the performance of expensive stuff, its sound would be "high end like"...referring to the better examples of expensive equipment that do sound like something really good. High end is not just an audio term as you may know, there are high end (expensive) anything you buy, clothes, cars, etc. Audio can't claim to have invented the phrase.

As a person who has studied semantics and General Semantics there is no one being who declares what is high end in performance and what's not. Its just a phrase really. If someone owns really great equipment and is used to really great sound and hears something with much lesser sound quality, they might comment that the sound of that equipment is not high end, based on its sound not being near as good as what they are used to. Its almost like what they call multi- ordinal words. Words like reality, truth etc. have no meaning on their own, unless they are used in a certain context referring to a particular thing.

There are undoubtedly people out there who have a certain standard for sound quality and anything at or above it, they consider high end sound and anything enough below it they consider mid fi sound. But there is no real criteria for what is high end and what is not. No more than there is a definition on what is a lot of money. Different people would have different ideas on that. No one would be right or wrong. It's all relative.

Back when so called high end audio was in its beginnings which HP of The Absolute Sound places in the mid 1970's, there were stores that carried the most well known brands at the time, Kenwood, Sansui etc., and there were stores carrying a whole different grouping of stuff that was less well known like Linn, IMF, Magnepan, Luxman, etc. Some people back then might habe wanted to coin a phrase, to separate the 2 very different kind of stores and the different brands they carried, like separating them into 2 camps; good & bad. Equipment brands in the "camp" that so called high end magazines choose to review, is another distinction that some people in their minds think of as high end, even if its a bottom of the line model from one of these manufacturers. But in the end its all semantics, and high end anything means expensive, simple as that. Whether something is worth that expense is up to us to decide, the listeners.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 8:30 am 
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hi end audio is for people,like me..who are super critical listeners..there is no dollar value..i have a 2500 tube amp in my estimation that sounds as good or better than 20k amps...the idea behind hi end audio is for the end user to be very diserning in his choices of equipment,his source playback choices and over all enthusiasm and passion for critical listening...if a person thinks that a denon multi channel receiver is hi end because it 3000.00 and has a lot of power per channel(which is not even accurate) and has a ton of features,its only because they dont know what is hi end. and i do not mean this in a bad or negative way..its just knowledge and experince and true passion for sonics...yes ,many things are subjective, but take for example my brother..he has a giant 9.2 marantz and a pair of tower bang n olfsons... he doesnt care less about critical listening ,nor does he even think in terms of hi end audio..its just a system to have in his big house...the music is backround....and,in my estimation the sound is not hi end,lol...


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 8:31 am 
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It’s all in the ear of the beholder. Each of us has our own idea of what is high end. I do believe that it is commonly used by folks to justify their buying decisions.

Just like the word “neutral”, which folks use to mean “whatever I just bought”. Most really can’t determine neutrality, as they use recordings where they were not present during the recording sessions. But using the word, like “high end” makes them feel better about their purchases.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 9:01 am 
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so true about neutral..lol never thought about it like that


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 10:24 am 
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High end audio is just a term which has no really sharply defined meaning, but many personal meanings to different people. "State Of The Art" Audio is a much better and more specific term in that it means "as good as it gets". The only thing is, its such a big international field of equipment choices, that probably Nobody, (unless they've heard everything, in every known combination), really knows what is the very best equipment and can definitively say or show what the current state of the art is, or for sure what equipment represents the current state of the art.

If someone was really rich and price was absolutely no object and they could travel limitlessly and hear a bunch of things with intelligent guidance, something tells me that they would laugh at what some of us consider high end sound. When you make even an 18% or so improvement in sound quality, what you were using before just sounds primitive and hard to go back to and no desire to go back to. The good news about all this is that you Don't have to have perfect sound to really have sensational sound; sound thats good enough to keep you amazed and in awe and in full enjoyment for a long while.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 10:52 am 
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If things were different, and I was lucky enough to be that proverbial unlimited rich guy, after all my travels I would hook my new system together and think I have found the state of the art. However some guy in Germany or Scotland, who knows of some equipment I Don't might really have found the state of the art.

One of the reasons high end audio is such a vague term is that it implies that its equipment within shouting distance of the best, and since no one really knows just how high the performance ceiling gets, no one really knows if something is really worthy of the designation high end. To me it just means expensive, simple as that. Some things at those prices are worth it and some are not, but even the gear that is somewhat underachieving, chances are its a lot better than what most people use.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 5:12 am 
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I am going to go with "high end" meaning "thoughtfully made" in the minds of most people.

For those with the means there are products that will fill the need.

Then if one has the desire but not quite the means, there is the 2nd hand and vintage markets.

And for those that have the means as well as nostalgia there are sought-after vintage items.

Also there are kits, where you are doing some of this thoughtful crafting yourself.


I fall into the 2nd bracket currently for the most part.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 10:40 am 
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When someone thinks of a phrase like high end audio or any phrase for that matter, it's likely that there are many things, not just one thing that comes to mind. The words "high end" literally means expensive, but the seeming reality that many audiophiles equate it in their minds with "superior, well engineered products"... as if more expensive means better sound, is very interesting. Perhaps thats why "expensive" is the meaning of the phrase for me, since not "all" expensive audio products are superior. There have been some real instances of bad engineering, not that great a sound and awful reliability at times. So to at least some people; more expensive (which it almost always is) is not a near synonym of quality or exclusiveness of sound quality.

Most high end equipment is really good however, and if someone was led into a good audio salon with their eyes covered, chances are whatever equipment they would come upon with their outstretched arms before them; chances are it would be pretty good equipment.

So when I see or hear the word high end audio the first thing that comes to my mind is "expensive" which is what all high end audio is; even though there is some occasional equipment which could have " superior sound " or what some people would term " high end sound " at lower prices. Most wine connoisseur's know that there could be a bottle or two of some cheap brand of wine at the liquor store around the corner, that's good enough tasting to at least hint at the taste of their multi thousand dollar bottles of Chateau Rothschild, but they certainly wouldn't even consider the notion of considering or labeling it a high end wine. They'd just consider it something thats a good deal for 14 bucks.

So for me audio equipment must have the big price tag for me to consider it being called "high end" since thats what that phrase literally means. A brand that makes an amazing 30k speaker that also makes a $300 pair of speakers; I would consider the brand "high end", but certainly not it's budget speaker. But if its budget speaker was a miracle of economic engineering and was capable to a high degree of mimicking the sound of what 30k speakers sound like; then I would consider it to have what some think of as "high end sound," or sound that we think of as "obviously superior". So when we think of something, its not just one thing that comes to mind. When we see or hear the words " high end audio" what comes to mind after or along with the word "expensive" are things like "superior" "exciting" " advanced & sophisticated" "potentially grethinkhigher degree of realism" and things like that. If those things didn't come to mind, there would not be any interest in "high end audio". Just Don't fall into the trap of thinking that because something costs thousands more than something else, that its automatically better. List prices are born in conference rooms, not in the laboratory.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 8:41 pm 
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Wow! Some very good replies and many of them got me thinking, especially those replies posted by "Upside". And to go along with the proposition that there could be two schools of thought / brands, I also recall when I first was introduced to "the high end" . I was in the market for a new stereo to go into my new home. I went into an audio shop looking for all of those names that I knew from my college days and saw absolutely none. But I did see names like Conrad-Johnson, Meridian, Kinergetics, B&K (and some will argue that is not high end), Linn and many others. And I heard music as I had never heard it before. Then there was the whole world of cable...
And yet again I never though of the answer that the "high end" means "expensive". And how true as "we" often referred to things as the high end that are not remotely related to things audio.
Thank you all for the wonderful comments and your thoughts on the matter. Most intriguing...


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 11:09 am 
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Back when I was a teenager, everyone in school kind of thought that Pioneer was the ultimate equipment. Maybe it was their advertising or something, but that was the prevailing notion. After listening to an older relatives all Pioneer 125 watt per channel system for a good while, it was hard to go back to my Lloyd's bedroom stereo. His Pioneer system had speakers with at least 7 drivers per speaker. My little Lloyd's speaker felt like it had 2 drivers, years later, realizing it was just one driver and a port behind the non-removable grills. Bose was considered ne ultra plus too. Guide To Stereo & Tape equipment proclaimed their 901 III model as the one that all others must be compared to. We knew nothing of the high end brands.

There was this one store right in the middle of downtown. We all guessed that they were grand liars, when they would tell us stuff like Pioneer speakers (back then), were colored (whatever that meant),and their electronics that went along with it were designed to have that same kind of sound too. In our minds that was near blasphemy. We couldn't believe it. The more gullible among us walked out of the store a bit confused, wondering if the world as we knew it; could it really be upside down ?

They carried Dahlquist, Advent, Acoustat and later Cizek and Hsu. When you walked in the store they would be playing the Dahlquist DQ10 most often, and you would just stand there listening "down" to the DQ10's, while the salesperson would ramble on about their definition, imaging (what's that?) and their balance. "Have a seat" and listen at ear level might have been helpful to boost their sales, but they just sounded like they lacked bass to us. "They're not bass heavy, they're balanced," just sounded like a slick salesman's trick, but it was maybe something to think about. They always made it a point to mention that the appliance store that also sold stereo equipment, that their salesman were refrigerator salesman, not really audio sales people and what they say, they warned, was not be taken seriously. That's where they sold the Bose 901's. I remember walking out of the high end store in a state of half confusion.

For me personally what led me to see the light, was of all things a book not about audio at all, but a book about Jazz records. The Best Jazz Albums, or something, it was called. One of the jazz writers kept mentioning the phrase "tone colors" when talking about someone's music. Tone colors...tone colors ?

I walked into the high end audio store one day and a Cizek speaker was playing. It just hit me; tone colors yeah, I see. Lack of coloration, yeah I see. The speaker made sounds that I never got out of my colored Japanese speakers. They were colored and holding back something; tone colors !

The stores listed in Audio magazine without a single Pioneer or Sansui in their carried brands listings; a totally different camp, but now instead of "odd" they might be something worth checking out. The "if those brands are so good, why hasn't anyone ever heard of them" was maybe something to at least re-consider. The second camp which often carried stuff like Hafler, IMF, Magnepan. GAS, Apt Holman; was a totally different camp. A minority; and not as popular back then. Like an alternate world. Could the masses actually be wrong ? I am glad I was open minded enough to find out. An audiophile was born.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 3:04 pm 
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still have my dq10s one of the best speaker developers all time..what an amazingly perfect speaker


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 3:34 pm 
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Some people who have owned both the later DQ20 and the DQ 10, say that the 10 images better. Its hard to know what they mean by that sometimes. Do they mean more spacious and diffuse or more focused. A guy came into my house once who was speaker hunting and he spent considerable time in stores listening to both the Vandersteen 2C and the the Dahlquist 10, and he said "the Dahlquist Don't image", but he didn't like the lack of bass tightness that he thought he heard on the original Vandy 2's. I played some guitar music to demonstrate the speakers I had for sale, and he seemed very impressed, and then I made the error of putting something acoustical on and it sounded artificial. My cartridge was a little bright and the bolts not tightened as firmly as they should be, I learned later. No Sale. Moral of the story: stop while you're ahead; when you know you have a sale.


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