This menu (Fine Audio for the Rest Of Us) is the place where I will list affordable high-end audio gear I find as well as non-high end gear that performs well above its price point. (Just because something costs more does automatically mean its way better especially when taking diminishing returns into account as well).
I will not be doing formal professional reviews as I am not a gear reviewer. That said, I may review a few items I own or perhaps have enough hands on experience with and any reviews I do end up doing will be very casual. I’d rather listen to music and not gear. Gear is merely the means of hearing the music at the best fidelity possible within one’s means (and you’ll be surprised how good that can be for not a lot of dough comparatively).
Aside from the few reviews I may end up doing, I will basically just be listing the item, giving some info from the manufacture and posting a picture and/or the links to the manufacture so you can check it out yourself and contact your local or known dealer if interested. If there is a good honest review on any item from a trusted source I will also post that, permitting. Ultimately, never solely trust a review, it’s your ears, not anyone else’s, try to seek out the item to see and hear for yourself.
Part of the whole purpose is to encourage you to visit your local high-end dealer if you have one near you and get some experience checking out some of the gear and hearing it and if the dealer is good and honest and willing, you’ll also get further education which is priceless. It doesn’t have to be a car-buying type experience, your just looking and educating yourself because you could be a future customer.
Just as important is the fact that in order to have good sound quality you will have to have the appropriate gear to reproduce it. Unfortunately, you will not find such gear on the shelves of Walmart, Target, Best Buy (with a couple of exceptions at certain locations) or any big box outlet. They simply do not carry the level of gear required. That said, much of the gear I am talking about is considered high-end or fine audio, but it does not have to be expensive. Yes, most will cost more than the cheap $200 AVR or receiver you find in the big box stores, but surprisingly not by much considering the build quality and performance and also important, the longevity and the sound quality the piece is able to provide. It is possible to put together a very nice complete system for well less than $3000. I’m talking everything, but the records!
I won’t be giving detailed advice on what to purchase, that’s better left up to you and any expert you hook up with, but I will be listing as many affordable high-end pieces (and some that are not high-end, but are incredible value for dollar) as I can. My criteria will vary depending on type of item. Essentially I break it down this way:
Speakers = up to around $6000/pr
Turntables = Up to around $3000 (2K and above for those with only a turntable source)
DACs = Up to around $800
Phono Preamps/Stages = up to around $1000 ($1k for those with only turntable source)
Amps = up to around $3000
Cartridges = up to around $600
CD players = up to around $1500
Network players = up to around $1000
Those are all max costs I listed. You likely won’t have to even flirt with the max prices I listed. There are certain things you won’t want to skimp on though such as speakers which is why I gave the highest max to them.
As for cables and the like, I won’t even go there. My belief (even though every single audiophile and high-end gear head will absolutely disagree with me), is that cables and such are not the place you want to allocate large money to. I believe as long as you are not using dollar store cables and such you are perfectly fine. Don’t get caught up in the “biggest difference I’ve heard is in cables” argument. I believe that unless you are running inappropriate lengths or gauges and using the wrong type of cables for any said piece, you are fine and there is no worries unless broken. I believe the biggest differences or changes or improvements you can ever make with any system is 1) the recording, 2) the room and set up and 3) the speakers, in that order. I’ll get more into that later. Everything else is subtle at best and could get you into nasty diminishing returns.
You’ll also note that I do not list prices, that’s because I don’t want it misconstrued that I am selling anything and such. However, trust that I will not list anything dramatically exceeding the affordable list above. You can count on that.