Why are we the red headed step-child?

Don’t get me wrong - I am fully aware that there are some very broad generalizations here that don’t always hold true. Nonetheless, if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I see nothing wrong with calling it a damn duck.

I’ve known home theater enthusiasts who drop well over $10k on building the perfect room, lighting, seating, etc. along with multiple thousand dollars on projector and screen, progressive scan blue ray players, etc. or big, bright, high contrast plasma screens. When it comes time for a receiver and speakers they’re like “Get the big Bose subs” because don’t you know “Bose makes the best there is” and “more louder =more better”…

I’ve known pc gamers who won’t bat an eyelash at dropping $1700 on Nvidia’s latest muscle card, and an additional $2500 for a big, fast, responsive 4k monitor, but when I ask them what kind of dac they use the response is a blank stare, then a hesitant “what’s a dac?” Often it’s a turtle beach or logitech headset plugged into the front 3.5 jack on their pc case…

Or the dude with the beat up mid ‘80’s mustang or Camaro who will drop a couple of grand on bodywork and paint, then go to Wal-Mart for an amp and a pair of 12” subs…

I get it to some extent. I like pretty too. Black backgrounds with high contrast and bright whites, saturated realistic colors, high pixel density, or a smooth, trim car with mirror polished paint job. Absolutely, sign me up!

I just can’t get why people are so eager to feed their eyes on all that candy, while being so content with bland watered down broth for their ears. We often hear things we cannot yet see. Our ears are so important to the way most of us walk through life. How is it those of us who care about the quality of the sound our entertainment provides are relegated to “audiophile” status, and often looked at with askance, skeptical amusement by the mainstream? Out in the wild, often the impression I get from non-audio enthusiasts is that I must be some blend of sucker and snake-oil peddler whenever I even broach the topic of satisfyingly good audio quality.

Pick one.

Most TVs in use today - as well as most color TVs that have ever existed - have spent most of their lifetime set up to excessive saturation and thus unrealistic colors.

But as for why audio doesn’t have the same commercial magnetism, I can think of two interrelated things: 1. the perceptible differences between decent and god-tier really aren’t that great, 2. it’s much easier for the extra audio quality of a really good system to be drowned out by environmental noise, and much harder to have it impress a shopper just walking by the shelves (but you can very easily do that with TVs that are kept running all the time); hell, even if you purposely play something through some speakers to test them out you might lose the quality in the typical background noise of your average “electronics store”.


This makes me think of my father-in-law. I have my TV calibrated and he complains everytime he’s over and watching sports. For whatever reason he’d rather have the oversaturated look. Along with all the other features they have enabled. Including the one I can’t stand the most; video interpolation. Don’t even get me started on how much hate I have for it.


I guess I’m outing myself as a guy who mostly watched cheaper lcd screens in the last decade or so. Washed out and pale has been something I’ve been irritated at for a while now, I forget what the older projection or crt tvs used to look like.

Your point about environmental noise at the common point of sale environment is well made though . I hadn’t really considered how most people “shop”.

My take on the matter: we are visually-driven beings so we focus on sight. We are built like that : dogs have their smell, cats have their mustaches, we have our eyes.

A proof of that is us shutting our eyes to focus more on sound.

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Yep, pretty much this. Ask someone if they had to choose between hearing or sight, they will choose sight 100% of the time. And I get that. I would, too. But there is something else, too.

The brutal truth of diminishing returns is much more prominent in audio than other fields. A significant upgrade in a TV screen is far more impactful to the user than say jumping from a 800-1000 dollar DAC to a 10,000 dollar DAC. I would guess the impact would be - Meh. There is so much more I could be doing with that extra 9 grand. And that is just the facts. I would HATE myself if I spent 10 grand on a DAC. I just don’t see the point.

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Ha, I feel like I have the opposite opinion, I think video stuff caps out pretty early, and it’s much more rewarding to higher in audio. Then again I’m not someone with fantastic vision and don’t care too much for visual media, but I think that it’s also more possible to create a more convincing audio experience than visual experience as you go up. Feel like for me the diminishing returns hit hard and quick for TV’s or projectors vs audio which just continues to get significantly better and better as you move up

As mentioned vision is a more prominent and complex aspect (although I bet one could argue hearing could be equally complex), that also means it’s easier to actually fool your ears, and it’s easier to see greater benefits as you move up. You can actually get to systems where you could fool yourself into thinking the reproduction is reality. I’ve never even gotten close to that sensation with anything visual, even in top tier ht setups that I’ve experienced. Audio has also had a lot more time to mature and refine, compared to the visual reproduction side of things imo

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Nah. I mean, that’s your opinion, and you are certainly entitled to feel that way, but nah. We had a sub-par TV for so many years, and we made due with it. It was fine. But when I could finally up the game and installed our LG 4K OLED - The difference was startling. My Wife could not take her eyes off of the screen. It was like seeing the Sun for the first time! We still marvel at it.

Conversely, When I made the jump from the SU-8 to the Bifrost 2, the difference was well, really noticeable, but it didn’t have the same impact. I brought Kathy in so she could hear the difference. And this is a woman who has Vulcan hearing! And she was like “yeah, that’s good. How much did you spend on this thing”? That is the way it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I get why some spend what they do on this stuff. If you are a richie-rich, it doesn’t really matter anyway, does it? You just write that check and get on with your day. For the rest of us, that is an incredible commitment. And for what? Marginal gains? I won’t do it. Not unless I can actually hear it for myself. And how is that ever going to happen? I think if more people like myself can get access to this higher end gear so that we could actually hear it, there would be much more appreciation for it. Until then, it’s a non-starter.


To me doesn’t even look “real” like an over sample as opposed to NOS :man_shrugging:

Not really a fair comparison though, the jump from a sub par tv to a 4k oled is pretty huge. The jump from a su8 to a bf2 is a mild step up. But the difference in audio is you can keep taking those steps up, and they get more and more drastic as you keep taking those steps (and then tail off eventually again, but that’s really really really high up at that point)

I would have felt the same if I had limited experience like that, but if you actually hear what’s above and the difference between those steps as you keep going up, you might change your mind

You can’t really keep going up with TVs from my experience after hitting something like a high quality 4k oled, but you can with audio

While there are sure people with more money than brains within this hobby, the concept of value doesn’t disappear or diminish in the high end, just depends on what bracket you want to compare in. I’d say that a lot of the people I’ve met with “fuck you” type money are pretty intelligent, and they aren’t the type of people to waste something just to be extravagant. You won’t stay rich with stupid decisions like that

It does all come down to your perception of value and diminishing returns which is different per person: how dedicated and committed are you, how experienced are you, and how much money can you safely though around without actually compromising needs. Which is why I like the phrase “reasonable stopping point” a lot more than “diminishing returns”, since from my experiencing diminishing returns in audio is only something you hit in extremely extremely extremely high price brackets, whereas a reasonable stopping point can be anywhere in the journey and more tailored to the specific person

Yep, all dependent on how much you care

Could be for you, not for others

Exactly, it’s all experience based. So that’s why I think it’s not really a good idea to be dismissive of something you’ve never tried, especially if you haven’t made efforts to go try it either. There are ways you can try some killer setups. One is to visit audio shows, admittedly more hit or miss at times in terms of quality but it’s still going to be a great experience. Another is to find dealers around you and see if you can get demos, or listen to their setups. Or visit a local audio meet (or find a forum friend so either swap gear with or get something on loan but that’s a bit less common). If you have money to plop down but don’t want to spend it, you can look for dealers or mfg that offer return periods to get your money back (sans shipping typically) if you find something non worthwhile

Higher end audio isn’t for everyone for many different reasons, but I also think it’s not something to just universally dismiss for others because you have no experience with or don’t find it interesting yourself, not something to try and claim as fact based off that. Might be fact to yourself, but opinion to everyone else (but that’s audio in a nutshell isn’t it lol)

Side note, what was the cost difference between moving from the old tv to the new one, vs the old dac to the new one? Also something to consider when making the tv vs dac comparison

Edit: also a lot more components within the chain that can cause larger difference or bottleneck, vs let’s say a TV setup, so that’s another thing to take into account

Our screen is like nothing I have seen before. When you are watching a game and you can see blades of grass and the smallest beads of sweat coming off a player’s brow, it doesn’t get any more real than that. Do I love my BF2 and my system at large? Of course. I’m just saying that in this house, the TV made a bigger impact. Period.


I’ll add that music, and sometimes sound in general, doesn’t ‘move’ people the way that it moves those of us who pursue audio quality. About half of human brains appear to be wired to have more emotional responses to music: https://www.discovery.com/science/Getting-Chills-from-Music. So I think the population that will respond to auditory stimulation in a manner sufficient to pursue an increase of it is already smaller than the human population at large. So yes, there will be droves of people for whom we just make no sense, lol.


Cool and I totally understand that :+1: from what I’ve seen and heard in high end Audio/visual stores…screens/projectors are yeah that’s cool where as the audio really has no limits to the wow factor…chain, implementation (dolby 9.1.6 etc) room sound isolation and :moneybag: with eyesight it’s what you see is what you get :man_shrugging:

Cost difference wasn’t that much. I spent maybe 10% more on the TV than the DAC. I got a smokin deal on the TV! And that is the other thing. You can frequently get great deals on TVs etc. whereas not so much on audio stuff. That just could be market dynamics, but there is that as well. Either way, high end audio is a money trap. That is not being dismissive, that is just fact. It’s a rabbit hole I can only travel a certain way, and then no more. Not until it can be proven to me that going down deeper is worth it.

I will take your statement to heart and see if there is some way to get in front of a high-end system. I looked into it briefly a while back and didn’t see anything out there. But I will keep looking. Because I am NOT being dismissive. But I do need to hear it for myself. I’m sure you can appreciate that.

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That is very true, higher general demand for a tv, more of them out there, more leeway on prices. The used market for audio can be great, but you’re likely to find steals on new or open box stuff like you would with a TV

So is high end anything, it’s only a trap though if you make it a trap lol. If the money is spent on things you actually enjoy and you feel like it was worthwhile, hard to call that a trap

Just because you call something a fact doesn’t make it a fact lol. Which is why I don’t really tend to ever call things in audio facts personally (unless it’s a genuine easily proven fact, which is extremely rare), because really most things are seldom fact, just opinions presented as fact, the truth is typically somewhere inbetween (as always lol)

Makes sense, I wasn’t really convinced on a lot of the higher end stuff either until I actually got to try it myself, and even then in some cases it didn’t convince me right away, or I had to change my setup to then become convinced, things can be picky lol

Not trying to convince you to go higher, nor suggesting your experiences don’t make sense either. Just saying that there’s plenty of reason to go higher for others, there just might not be for you which is totally fine

Hopefully you can find somewhere interesting and check something out sometime, should be a fun experience regardless of the goal for visiting :+1:

Fair point. This is all subjective, anyway. We have priorities as to what we spend money on. I mentioned earlier all the things I could be spending that extra x-number of thousands on other than a piece of audio gear. For me that would be anything motorcycle related. You probably don’t ride, so you would have no appreciation for what I have spent on my bikes over the years. But I get more enjoyment out of those bikes and the art of riding than any piece of audio gear could ever provide. Wanna shake your head at me and call me silly? That’s fine. I get why you might. I’ll just laugh and ride away.

I completely understand this. Believe me, it’s not that I don’t want to go higher, I do. It just doesn’t make sense given what I have going on in my life now. The price of admission is too damned high and I simply won’t do it. This is me showing remarkable restraint more than anything else. Besides, I have motorcycles to feed… :sunglasses:

Me too. So far this audio journey has been an incredible experience that I have enjoyed thoroughly. Being part of this forum is definitely part of that. I would like to think that there is one more jump for me to execute. What that will look like is completely unknown at this point in time, and there is definitely no path to get there. Never say never, though. And if it never happens, that is OK too. I’m pretty happy with what I have. Hell, I never thought I would have a system this good! :smile:

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Pretty much, I know my personal priories are very irresponsible and unbalanced (as an example, my audio gear is worth more than my house lol), but if you’re trying to balance multiple hobbies it totally changes the game, along with life expenses and all that that come regardless. I got audio, annnddddddd that’s about it outside of unavoidable expenses lol

Never been on a motorcycle in my life lol, so yeah I would see no value in that. Although over the years as I got higher and higher into audio, while I don’t see the value in other hobbies personally, I also understand they likely work much the same as audio does, so couldn’t ever criticize someone buying lets say expensive wine, I sure as hell can’t tell the difference but that’s only me lol and I’m sure they do

That is the best place to be lol

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Frisson, indeed! And tears!

From my personal experience beyond the " you only have 2 ears why do you need so many headphones" there is barely any criticism most people tend to concede skepticism as long as you show your genuine interest and if there over at your place they really begin to understand once you start listening to some thing with them. the problem is this a is a hobby about something that is not physical or visual for the most part so people have a hard time understanding what is and isn’t snake oil as certain things can matter it’s just a matter f if you can perceive it or not. but as someone who imerses themselves in several other hobbies every hobby is more familiar than dissimilar every hobby has the same types of characters whether it be the guru or the charlatan it’s all nearly the same. Really to me its a matter of years of marketting from brands like beats and bose that make people think they’re good. when sennheiser stepped up their marketing a bit and streamers started using them I can call out all the headphone brands iI own but as soon as i say I own sennheisers people say “wow you own a sennheiser”. all in all its all due to marketing and lack of exposure to the thing and trust me as a person that is also into pc gaming most common folk dont understand what a gpu is only reason people are ok with cars is because they see them on the street everyday and hen they see that tricked out camaro making the noises of performance down the street they understand because they are exposed to it and see the results