Isn't expensive audio gear just snake oil?

Hear me out I am not saying good quality audiogear is useless far from it. But aren’t some of the speakers and amps you see completely useless? If someone really wanted studio quality gear wouldn’t it be better to just buy the hardware used in a studio instead? Do studios even use $100,000 gear? All I am saying is that isn’t it useless for the audiophiles that go overboard and buy the most expensive gear wasting their money since the studios do not even use that?

You’ll be slated for that comment lol, but yes you are correct (now I’ll be slated as well)

I watched a recent video about the Leak CD Transport, the reviewer stated that he could hear a difference between that and a $2.5k Transport, as both systems are outputting the same digital stream that is impossible.

As I’m not a sound engineer I don’t know how tarcks are mastered, is it to the best that equipment can be, or is it to sound the best on the biggest income stream equipment ie, a 1950’s recording was probably played mainly on a Dansette record player, if so, when played on any higher quality equipment you are not hearing what was meant to be

Also, if you need 1" diameter speaker cables for your speakers, why haven’t they done the same for headphones?

A lot is the placebo effect, the kings cloths or snakeoil - take your pick on the analogy

But, if you have the money, room etc, why not spend it on gear - most of us do the same with property and cars anyway

Talking about gear and “sources” :wink:

I’ll also take the risk of being slated. I’ve owned a reasonable amount of audio gear over about 40 years and the current set-up in my lounge is the best I’ve ever had. Two pairs of speakers from the 1970s, an analogue integrated amplifier from a few years back, a CD player from the late 1990s, and a Khadas Tone Board running off a Pi 3b+ (running Volumio, of course). With the exception of the Pi and Tone Board, everything was acquired second-hand, for a few hundred dollars an item. The amplifier (also second-hand) was a bit dearer, but still way less expensive than any equivalent bought new from a shop. This set-up sounds every bit as good as most of the multi-thousand-dollar set-ups I’ve heard in the listening rooms of the audio shops in my city.

1 Like

Kindly pls give the names. Thanks

Front speakers: Kef 104AB
Rear speakers: Bowers & Wilkins DM2A
Amplifier: Yamaha AS 2000
CD player: Pioneer PD-S901

It took quite a few years to find the speakers. They seem to only come up for sale very infrequently - and because they’re old, not every pair that comes on the market is in great condition.

I’m glad to see people expressing objectively about the dark side of the audiophile/hi-end/hi-fi side of music entertainment.

I’ve always wondered how this hobby/interest can become something more close to a religion or sect, where blind faith and uncontrollable passion is required.

This post is gonna get wild once believers start comming.

1 Like

I have a wharfdale 9.1 drived by Marantz pm6004 and topping e30 dac. Speakers and are second hand. The sound is great. I do not know if I should invest more :slight_smile: in speakers. If this will give me greater benefit. Adding the DAC improves the quality.

To me, the thing that matters most is that the music sounds good.

I once had the privilege of visiting a person whose hi-fi system would have cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, it sounded wonderful.

But even if I could afford a system like that I would not buy it. To me, there’s an interesting challenge in getting the best out of low-cost items. This is what drew me to Volumio: it costs so little to set up a DAC and have a great listening experience.

So, Lintbf, if your system sounds great to you, you’re in the “sweet spot”. Just enjoy it.


I think it’s all down to what you expect to hear, from watching a number of audiophiles’ videos, it seems that each “improvement” is a fraction of a percent better than their previous piece of equipment, not sure what they are chasing as it appears to be indescribable and cannot be put into words.

But when things start to go against science, I really struggle not to laugh at them and just think they are trying to justify to themselves the large amounts they have paid for something.

But as my previous comment, it’s their money, so can spend it how they like, I’ve blown silly money on photography and computers in the past, so I can’t really talk lol

It’s worth noting that good studio sound is different from domestic audiophile sound, in that studio sound aims for a measurably flat frequency response irrespective of the amount of sound energy in the room. Experienced engineers and mixers with trained ears find this to be a useful standard to aim at, because it means they can work anywhere.

It is certainly true that someone who knows about audio can make a domestic audiophile setup indistinguishable from much more expensive systems, spending hundreds rather than thousands. Modern speakers are better than they used to be because design and testing tools have advanced. High quality but inexpensive amplifiers (Class D) objectively offer similar or better performance compared with expensive older technologies. Inexpensive lossless digital music sources provide end to end quality in the signal path. Some can hear these differences, some cannot, some are working on it.
Of course snake oil should be avoided. Learn about audio tech and acoustics. Study the room, understand the devices you’re working with, measure, listen, experiment. that way you pay hundreds not thousands. But if you’re too rich or busy or dim, spend thousands. Retail therapy may have some virtues.

1 Like

I find this interesting.
I agree with all of the above.
especially @Ytheleus
I always wonder if when people pooh pooh expensive gear whether they have not heard decent gear. Or are unable to appreciate the differences. Or not heard it with a decent recording.
I am starting out at the bottom with not a whole lot of cash and am 50.
I have been surprised that my ears can tell the difference each time I make an improvement. Man, I am enjoying the improvements each time.
I intend to improve each time the weakest link until I can not notice the difference.
Slowly and steadily.
I like to double blind test stuff.
Now, I know people who can’t tell the difference between mp3 and FLAC and are happy with mp3. Great. I am somewhat envious.
My point is, I am 50. I have used power tools.
I am absolutely positive that I can not hear the benefits of a fantastic system over what I find great ultimately. But I am sure that others can appreciate the differences way better than i can.
Therefore I feel unable to pooh pooh their system due to my limitations as opposed to theirs. If they can hear the difference, man, I wish I could hear the same.

I am not saying that there is not such a thing as snake oil and Ytheleus put it lovely.
“if you’re too rich or busy or dim, spend thousands”
I am hoping to achieve my happy level on hundreds and am thoroughly enjoying the journey. But it is taking time and learning.

Also, some people just enjoy the collecting of wonderful pieces of equipment.
Plus many are pieces of art.

It seems that many people don’t do the basics either.
Then they buy expensive items and get around poor positioning with that.

There are so many aspects eh?
That is what makes this fun. It can be enjoyed in so many different ways.

Igot this,…

I use the Khadas too…and we think it’s a bargain don’t we?
It’s all relative though. If I were to show the little KTB to my brother, who has no interest in hi-fi, he would laugh at the fact that it cost as much as £100.
(Saw if for £80 the other day, an ultra-bargain).

I put my one in a metal enclosure that I had spare. Started by using it via USB from the Pi.
Now using coax dig. from a Hi-fiBerry Digi+ Pro…with improved SQ.

I worked in live music in my youth, but there are some reasons why you should not despair of developing a decent ear.

Advancing age, using power tools, and working in live music venues every night usually only has the effect of limiting your ability to discern the highest frequencies. I’m lucky to hear much above 12kHz due to this abuse, you might expect to register 15kHz, but the rest of the spectrum, where most of the information is, should be relatively unaffected. You might be missing a little of the cymbal sparkle but not much else.

There is the story of a musician who finished mastering his album and found that young people heard a whine in the recording that he missed due to not being 16 any more. That didn’t make him any less of a good musician. A lot of having a good ear is experience, careful listening, the ability to assess the accuracy and width of the stereo image, the ability to assess the balance of different frequencies.

So you should trust your ears because that’s all you get. Though you should recognise, as you do, that yours is only one personal opinion and not definitive

Ah, I see.
Thanks for that.
I was surprised I was hearing the differences. This would explain a lot.
I am enjoying the clarity.
Actually, I am not keen on the higher end anyway. I find them somewhat irritating.

I have ordered the new Khadas Tone 2 Pro. Khadas offered a generous discount for early orders, which made it ridiculously inexpensive. I would like to think that I will be able to discern the difference between it and my current KTB, but my ears are not what they used to be. In any case, it’s extraordinary value for money.

1 Like

So, what do you think about the incredibly expensive power cables? (and speaker cables as well)

If someone really wanted studio quality gear wouldn’t it be better to just buy the hardware used in a studio instead?

Well, probably not. Studios are set up for extremely sterile playback. A set of studio monitors are designed to show all of the flaws recorded and aren’t necessarily for the enjoyment of music. Audiophile equipment designed for playback is quite different in its purpose.

I have two zones of playback, my office zone consists of a Volumio streamer (PCM5122 DAC) into a 12 band equalizer that provides +/- 12db adjustment in half octaves from 45hz to 180 then full octave adjustment to 16,000 Hz. That goes into a class a/b push pull tube amp feeding a pair of Energy 22 loudspeakers. It sounds pretty awesome to my ears. The only addition I will be making to this will be a dedicated subwoofer. I’m partial to folded, tapped horn enclosures so I’ll be building one in due time.

My living room zone consists of a Volumio streamer (PCM5122 DAC) into a speakercraft 12 channel amp, currently using 8 of the channels 2 in the living room, 2 in the kitchen and 2 bridged to the sub in the living room and 2 bridged to the sub in the kitchen. The only equalization in the system is for the subwoofer channels which are fed via a dedicated low pass with a DSP room correction processor. The speakers are Dayton wall mount MTM plates in enclosures, the subs are folded tapped horns tuned to 38Hz. None of this is particularly expensive (because DIY) but it sounds quite good to my ears and is certainly the best in home audio I’ve had.