The average cost to manufacture something audio related is usually about a quarter of what it eventually costs at the store, sometimes less. Sometimes a lot less.
If a manufacturer is operating overseas — and many in audio are — it must pay a distributor and a dealer before the company itself sees any money. After that and before taxes lies the only opportunity for that manufacturer to grow, let alone continue to exist. It's a tough gig, and most of the audio companies that have ever existed are gone.
Because most folks aren't interested in spending more than $350 for a pair of speakers, the electrical makeup of most of the audio equipment in the world is below average and uses bargain-basement components. This is a truth. I've taken apart $1,000 speakers only to see 50-cent inductors on the crossover, among other things.
The name of the game in the audio industry for the most part is figuring out how to cram as much goodness into as low a cost as possible. That makes the higher tiers of "high end" audio pretty dang fun to look at and dream about — for those products, all of the penny pinching is off the table.
I aim to throw a bunch of names and products at you that would comprise my choice of components if budget was no concern, and if you're interested in seeing and learning more about these, just fire them into your favorite search engine. Let's begin.
I start with the room, naturally. My ideal room has hardwood floors and is rather large. The most important feature for me is cathedral ceilings and height. Really ideally, the height of the room would increase behind you, and that expanding design would deal with sound reflections from the back.
My choice of speakers is the Focal Sopra No. 3. I'm connecting them to their individual amplifiers with Stealth Audio Dream Royale speaker cables — as short as possible.
I'll power the Sopras with Boulder-based PS Audio's BHK 300 Signature mono amps. Mono means only one channel, so you need two to make stereo.
Those are "power amps," meaning they have no volume control. For that, I'd look to the Aesthetix Janus preamplifier, which is a tube/solid state hybrid.
Connecting the preamplifier to the PS Audio amps would be Siltech Empress Triple Crown "interconnects." Interconnects are cables that go between a preamp and an amp or a record player and a preamp, so they're an important part of the chain.
I need a source, and as a digital guy, that's pretty easy — a Mac computer filled with music and running JRiver, which is like iTunes but can do a lot more and sounds a lot better.
I'll need a digital-to-analog converter to feed into the preamp, so that will be the Modwright Instruments Elyse DAC (digital/analog converter).
If I wanted to add a turntable (I don't — too much work), I'd need a top-of-the-line Clearaudio 'table and a D'Agostino phono stage.
What are we looking at so far ... almost $150,000? Amazingly, one can spend a whole lot more. But these represent, in my opinion, the finest choices at the spare-no-expense level. Like I said — it's fun to dream.