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Do you love or loathe high-end audio?

The Audiophiliac ponders why high-end audio polarizes people.

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A Magnepan 1.7i flat panel speaker Magnepan

High-end cars, watches, vacations, boats, wines, clothes, etc. are generally seen in a positive light by the public, but for some reason high-end audio is viewed as an outrageous extravagance for only the wealthiest of audiophiles. Talk about a double standard!

Yet the working class guy who collects vintage Ford pickup trucks or Corvettes, or drops thousands of dollars for a pair of tickets to the World Series, that's money well spent. We all have our indulgences.

High-end audio is all about the pursuit of perfect sound reproduction at home. Note, I said pursuit --we still have a long way to go before home audio sound even begins to approach the real thing, but for the audiophile who buys a new speaker, amplifier or turntable that brings that elusive goal even a little closer, it's worth it.

If James Brown, Radiohead, or the New York Philharmonic are more fully realized over a great hi-fi and give the owner years of musical satisfaction, what's wrong with that?

Like car, watch, or camera collectors, there's a certain amount of gear love involved. High-end audio engineers and designers devoted to advancing the state of the art are heralded by audiophiles, who see the best of their creations as objects of great functional beauty. I certainly do.

I sometimes wonder if the high-end audio haters ever heard a great audio system. These folks make a lot of assumptions about exactly what constitutes a high-end system, and what sort of price range are we talking about? How high is high?

There's no strict definition about price, but I'd say a decent high-end system, with a turntable (or digital converter), amplifier and a pair of speakers starts around $5,000, £3,227 or AU$6,809. That would buy a pair of Magnepan 1.7i flat panel speakers, a Rogue Audio Sphinx stereo integrated amplifier, and a Rega RP3 turntable, or the MyTek Stereo 192/DSD digital converter.

So while the cost of entry to high-end audio isn't cheap, it's still within the reach of a lot more people than exotic cars, boats, or premium watches. Lovers and haters of high-end audio can voice their opinions in the Comments section below.