How Do You Think About Cost/Benefit Analysis for Your System?

Ron Resnick

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Jan 24, 2015
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We have many WBF members who do not apply a cost/benefit analysis to their components, rooms and systems. They spare no expense to achieve state of the art playback in their selected format(s).

Most of us do not have the luxury to pursue the hobby at that level of maximum "all-out assault."
Personally, I actually enjoy the concept of trying to achieve what I appreciated as relatively high sine of value per dollar.

I felt that way about my prior VPI/Martin Logan/VTL/ system, and, at a higher target point, I feel that way about my current system.
how do you think about this question?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being price-no-object, all out assault, stateof-the-art, where do you think your system currently is falling?

I think my prior system (circa 1990s) was something in the 6 to 7 sound quality range, and cost at MSRP around US$50,000. I think my current system is something in the 8 to 9 sound quality range, and costs at MSRP around US$400,000
 
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Where on the cost/benefit scale are you targeting for your system and expenditure?
 
I think that the majority of us have to decide for ourselves what our personal point of diminishing return is.
 
I think that the majority of us have to decide for ourselves what our personal point of diminishing return is.
I agree!
 
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My signature has components in terms of cost benefit analysis going up to all out assault if I were to win a a lottery. I don’t need to spend more than the max in my signature for sonics on gear
 
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Now that the kids are out of college without student loans on their back, I can indulge myself... No further comment.

well you can take care of my mortgage if you are feeling irresponsible
 
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We have many WBF member's who do not apply a cost/benefit analysis to their components, rooms and systems. They spare no expense to achieve state of the art playback in their selected format(s).

Most of us do not have the luxury to pursue the hobby at that level of maximum "all-out assault."
Personally, I actually enjoy the concept of trying to achieve what I appreciated as relatively high sine of value per dollar.

Ron, the process I used for choosing my current system was simple. I heard the system I wanted and I figured out how to get it. It would now be quite difficult to replicate it as many of the components are no longer available, so the value to me is high.

I do not really think in analytical terms for my hobbies. Enjoying music in my home is more of an emotional thing. It is the same with my other hobbies. There is a cost, but how does one value the benefit?

I reserve cost benefit analysis for other things.
 
That was not deliberate. I will fix it.
ok, thanks. much better.

as far as my system, I do view it as an 'all out assault' based on my particular audiophile/music viewpoint. others would maybe have different priorities. since nothing is ever perfect, I'll go with 9.85 out of 10 for performance.

as far as being at peace with the system as it is--that I'll give it 10 out of 10.

cost/benefit? I can't assign my view of my benefit to any broader group. only for me. and only for how things look right now. there have been moments in the past where I felt I had over-committed to this hobby relative to my life. we look at Ken Fritz as a guy who was even more committed than me to the hobby, even more obsessive, and read about his family's comments about it. so I try to stay somewhat real world about things......in a relative sense.

I do spend a ton of time listening and really get a great deal of pleasure out of pure listening, and out of the culture of the hobby. it enriches my life to a high degree. so lots of benefits on many levels. if I took my system investment, cut it by two thirds over the last 20-30 years, and did something else with that money would I be happier? I'll never know.

I know I smile every time I enter my listening room, sit down, and listen. I never take it for granted. it's always where my mind wants to be. there is always an ahhhhhh to it. satisfying and calming. I'm in my happy place.

I view my system as serving me, not me being a slave to it. but I'm probably on the edge of sanity.

not getting into dollars.....plenty I suppose.
 
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Ron, the process I used for choosing my current system was simple. I heard the system I wanted and I figured out how to get it. It would now be quite difficult to replicate it as many of the components are no longer available, so the value to me is high.

I do not really think in analytical terms for my hobbies. Enjoying music in my home is more of an emotional thing. It is the same with my other hobbies. There is a cost, but how does one value the benefit?

I reserve cost benefit analysis for other things.
I think you value the benefit comparatively. i.e. you could spend 150k on the best cables which most likely will marginally improve your system's performance but most people would rather spend that kind of money on a new car or a piano or house restoration or something else where the benefit in ones life exceeds the cable upgrade.
 
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I do spend a ton of time listening and really get a great deal of pleasure out of pure listening, and out of the culture of the hobby. it enriches my life to a high degree. so lots of benefits on many levels. if I took my system investment, cut it by two thirds over the last 20-30 years, and did something else with that money would I be happier? I'll never know.

I know I smile every time I enter my listening room, sit down, and listen. I never take it for granted. it's always where my mind wants to be. there is always an ahhhhhh to it. satisfying and calming. I'm in my happy place.

I view my system as serving me, not me being a slave to it.
This is so good.

Putting significant emotional and/or financial resources into anything, is in the words of L.A. Paul a 'vampire problem' and difficult to generate a true cost/benefit analysis.

The Transformative Experience
 
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I definitely consider the cost. But I have to apply practicality in too. I have a living room system. Its obvious subs would help me. Its obvious a new room would help me.

Instead I bought 2 x $79 fuses and a Puritan Routemaster/groundmaster.
I have an audiophile switch, but I am not going to spend $3k or more to try a different one. I am not spending $5k or more to reclock my digital. I'm not spending over $2500 for a phono cartridge. I don't spend money on esoteric power cables. I do have a good speaker cable and interconnects. I did spend a large sum on better amps.
 
I am right where I want to be with the C/B ratio, under budget, extremely happy and like @Kingrex I spend a little here and there on tweaks, if the C/B is not there for the tweak then back it goes. As an empty nester with only one child still on the payroll (college) and still have money in the 529 plans (2 kids had academic scholarships one earning his PhD) I have free reign over the second floor of our house, but chose to keep my listening space in my study. I found no reason to expand to the second floor and go through the process again in a bigger room.
 
I have a modest system by WBF standards, but I’d never admit what I’ve spent on it to anyone other than my wife. It just so happens that she and I were discussing the Ken Fritz article on a car ride this morning and I broke down the cost on a per hour basis after factoring in how much I listen, what I paid for gear and records, a reasonable estimate of what the gear would sell for vs. what I paid, and the lifespan of the gear (for the calculation I assumed I’ll downsize in 20 years, when I’m 80). I also included five cartridge replacements. If I round up a bit for safety, it costs me $4/hr for something that gives me great joy. In short, this hobby is a screaming bargain!
 
With all due respect, what exactly is the purpose of this thread? Do you really expect people will tell others what they spent on their system and how close to perfect it is. So $400K gets you to an eight or nine out of ten. And I assume that does not include the cost to build your "man cave".

From my perspective, if I spent that amount of coin on an audio system and was not absolutely, positively thrilled with the sound performance, I would be very disappointed in the end result. But maybe it is a work in progress and acceptable to you. Street value of my current system is far, far less (way down in the five figure bracket) and I would rate it a ten.

There is a very subjective, tenuous relationship between price and performance. Best.
 
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We have many WBF members who do not apply a cost/benefit analysis to their components, rooms and systems. They spare no expense to achieve state of the art playback in their selected format(s).

Most of us do not have the luxury to pursue the hobby at that level of maximum "all-out assault."
Personally, I actually enjoy the concept of trying to achieve what I appreciated as relatively high sine of value per dollar.

I felt that way about my prior VPI/Martin Logan/VTL/ system, and, at a higher target point, I feel that way about my current system.
how do you think about this question?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being price-no-object, all out assault, stateof-the-art, where do you think your system currently is falling?

I think my prior system (circa 1990s) was something in the 6 to 7 sound quality range, and cost at MSRP around US$50,000. I think my current system is something in the 8 to 9 sound quality range, and costs at MSRP around US$400,000

Ron, you are asking multiple questions here. One is performance per dollar, another is absolute performance.

I'll also disregard the detractors here, even though they bring up good points from their view.

So I'll say about my system:

Performance per dollar: 9.5 out of 10.

I am very confident that I got great performance per buck, at least for my taste and for what I am after (this is a subjective hobby). I'll not give the highest grade because you can't know for sure that every dollar was perfectly worth it. I am supremely confident that my digital has unbelievable performance per price (my DAC alone beats a number of others multiple the price), I think most people overspend on their digital, frankly.

Performance per what is possible in my room: 9 to 9.5 out of 10.

My room dimensions are limiting, especially width (for details, see signature), but I think I have quite well optimized the acoustics and have relatively close to maxed out the system performance that is possible in my room -- again, for my taste and for what I am after (once more, this is a subjective hobby).

Performance of the system compared to what might be possible in absolute terms: 6 to 8 out of 10.

A larger spread of uncertainty here (6 to 8), since on one hand I know that considerably greater performance is possible in larger rooms, even just in terms of scale, and on the other hand I simply haven't heard the maximum possible. A factor here: while a larger room and a larger system/speakers that are suitable for it can do more, systems that can fill a large room can have drawbacks that I would be critical of (while others may not be, everyone's taste and perceptions are different). There are technical problems to everything, everything is a compromise, and flaws can be heard everywhere, especially once you get over the first overwhelming impression and start nitpicking.

And yes, I have given up being impressed by prices quite a while ago. The fact that something is expensive doesn't mean that its performance is commensurate.
 

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