Are audiophiles wasting their money on expensive gear?

Audiophiles take great pleasure in their hobby. Is it really any different than wine snobs or guys who collect Corvettes?

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read
An old Krell amplifier: Still sounds wonderful after all these years. Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Let's face it: our "indulgences" can get expensive, so whether we go to sports events or concerts, buy flashy clothes or jewelry, gamble, drink, or take lots of vacations, those things can add up to a lot of money. Smoke a $6 pack of cigarettes every day, and you'll see close to $22,000 go up in smoke over the next 10 years. In that context, dropping serious cash on a great hi-fi doesn't seem out of line.

Middle-class audiophiles with $10,000 hi-fis might appear to be a wee bit over the top, but for some reason the guy with the same income who buys a couple of old Corvettes or a boat is viewed in an entirely different light. Each to their own, but I think audiophiles who carefully select their gear are actually pretty smart.

I write about low- and high-priced audio, but the best stuff is always expensive -- or should I say, the upfront costs are expensive. When you stop and consider that you may enjoy a set of great speakers for 10, 20, or even 30 years, the investment may be worth it. I have a close friend who still uses on a near daily basis a high-end turntable he bought more than 30 years ago. He's a musician, tends to work at night, and plays a lot of records at home during the day. He never made a lot of money, but that turntable has provided an enormous amount of enjoyment over the years.

Nothing gets older faster than high-tech products, like phones. Apple recently announced that they will no longer support the original iPhone, just six years after it was introduced. I get it -- it's old and obsolete, why use it anymore? Phones are inherently disposable technology -- you have no choice but to keep upgrading to the latest and greatest toy. I can't imagine anyone will be listening to any of today's Bluetooth speakers in 10 years.

Let's contrast and compare that with my 33-year-old NAD 3020 integrated amp. It's still going strong and sounds better than most new budget-priced amps on the market. One of my audiophile pals has a set of restored Quad 57 electrostatic speakers, and his were made in the early 1970s, and they sound better than many brand-new speakers. There's no getting around the fact that the best audio gear is expensive, but if you really love music, it might be worth it.