The Solution to Audiophile Inflation Is a Small But Powerful Two-Letter Word offers affiliate links and the money that we make from them helps pays for our content.
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Anybody tired of inflation yet? I sure as hell am, and I bet you are, too. I refinanced my home-equity loan to help get funded and off the ground. Less than a year later, the cost of the interest on the HELOC loan is over $1,100 more than it was—and that’s just the bank’s interest-rate increases. Ouch. Luxury hotel rooms in Southern California that for 20 years were priced seasonally between, say, $459 and $659 per night now range anywhere from $1,750 to $2,000 per night … plus tax, and resort fees, and $55-per-night parking. You can forget about taking that trip. 

The inflationary pressures on nearly every aspect of the economy have slowed in recent months, but prices are still so high that, in many cases, companies must be profiteering because they can get away with it. Today, after a roughly four-mile walk by the beach, I decided to treat myself to a large iced tea and two hash browns from McDonalds. It cost $7.50. Seriously, what is the fixed cost for water, a few tea bags, a cup, and a straw—even factoring in $20-per-hour labor? Not $2.50 for a hash brown or an iced tea. Sorry. 

The price of audiophile products has skyrocketed like other tech goods in this inflationary economy
The price of audiophile products has skyrocketed like other tech goods in this inflationary economy

Wanna know the solution to gross profiteering? It is a two-letter word that starts with N and ends with O. 

The good news is, nobody is forcing you to buy anything today—excluding products like life-saving pharmaceuticals and commodities that you simply can’t live without. My fat ass doesn’t need a hashbrown from McDonalds, but I was hungry and Jonesing for some caffeine. Still, I should have just kept on driving. I could have said no, but I rewarded McDonalds by paying its absurdly bloated prices … and now I am a little bit bitter. 

A few months back, a legendary PR agent in the audio industry told me to “pick any electronics you want for review and we will send it to you.” I looked at some of their products and selected a stereo preamp and power amp designed by an also-legendary audiophile designer with ties running back to the early days of Mark Levinson. What I didn’t look at was the price of those products. The Class-AB amplifier was $10,000. Before COVID, it was $5,000. OMG. I quickly retracted my request. At $5,000, the amp was a solid value; but at $10,000, it had to compete with a whole world of much better, much more compelling products. But that’s inflation, and I get it. Shipping costs, manufacturing inefficiencies, chips, labor, massive dealer profit margins, and so much more factor into the price of audiophile goods.

The Mother’s Day Brunch at my country club here in Southern California is something to behold. I’ll never forget watching my wife and mother-in-law talking with fellow (social) member Tom Hanks (as nice a guy as you think he is and THEN some). In the past, I would invite our close, personal friends and their families to attend this buffet brunch that features every exotic food you can dream of. The price pre-COVID was about $55 per head. Today, other nearby social clubs charge $70 to $75 per head (which is up significantly over their past rates), and my club charges $170 per head! There is no way on God’s green earth that any of the adults in my family could eat the amount of food required to justify that price. We ended up dining at a restaurant in Santa Monica Canyon, and it was absolutely fantastic. Fun drinks for the moms. Red and green chilaquiles. Breakfast nachos that got eaten up in mere minutes. Brunch for six was $220, including a 25 percent tip. We had a great time, and I saved easily $500 by saying “no” to the new prices. 

Gas prices in California are still over $6.00 per gallon in many locations
Gas prices in California are still over $6.00 per gallon in many locations

The word NO is a powerful statement.

Why should any company stop raising prices when demand says that people will keep paying? I’m a capitalist at heart, so I get it. But I don’t have to be part of everybody’s crazy price gouging, and neither do you. Never forget that you hold the power. You vote with your wallet, and you can send a message.

Yes, today’s audiophile world is clouded with absurdly high-priced gear at every turn, but there are also great values to be found. Unless you’re a Russian Oligarch, do you really need $400,000 speakers to be happy with your music playback system? Likely not. The rise of Chi-Fi has upped the value factor, and there are other brands delivering high value that aren’t Chinese OEMs like Topping, FiiO, S.M.S.L and others. Younger consumers, even when they have the money to spend, put such a high premium on value that they gravitate toward brands like Schiit, SVS, NAD, Monoprice, and the like. 

Jerry Del Colliano's headphone collection
Headphones are a way to get a lot of audiophile sound without spending huge money

Concepts like esoterica, scarcity, expensive labor, and beyond-insane build costs make for cool audiophile gear, but they don’t make for high value. And you don’t have to buy any audiophile product unless you want to. “No” is a perfectly reasonable answer if you think the value isn’t there. 

2023 might be a year where we all continue to suffer from the effects of inflation, but we’ve got options and power. Put old stereotypes aside and focus on fact and science, and you will be led to the best values in the audiophile world. Some of the best values may still be expensive overall (think: a Bricasti product, which is a fraction of the cost of the uber-high-end gear and often equal or better in terms of performance), while others may be highly affordable. But they are all worth your consideration. 

It may not always feel like it, but at the end of the day, the consumer (aka: YOU) always wins. You control the game. You control the price. Enjoy the power, my friends. Money managers and friends who are high up in the world of finance seem to think that The Fed is done raising rates for the rest of the year. Let’s hope that’s true, but we don’t control The Fed. We do control our spending, and that is the special sauce needed to deal with inflation and especially price gouging.

What are some of the worst examples of price gouging that you’ve seen in your world? Where have you found specific value, both in audio world and outside of the audio world? What have you said NO to recently? We want to hear from you in the comments below. Post away!!!

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Mark Block

“Yes!” to this article. “No!!!” to inflated high-end prices.

Ross Warren

Earlier in the year, speaker prices of some models (Wharfedale Linton) jumped 25% at one time. Inflation was bad, even worse than now, but come on, a 25% increase in one day is ridiculous. I said “no” and now I’m considering some better, but more expensive speakers, the JBL L100 Classic, which is currently on “special” till the end of August. The kicker is a newer L100 model that will be even better (better crossover, better bass driver) will be out soon, but it will be at a premium price. I think I could be satisfied with the current model and be very happy.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ross Warren

Yes to no…agreed. What’s even worse is the used high-end market or even the mid fi market!!! I’ve seen prices twice that of the original retail!!!! Heresy 1’s are being sold between $700 and $1000!!!! That’s crazy! Don’t even try going to thrift stores either, the first thing they do is look the new product up and price their older product close to retail! Gross profiteering is right, company profits lost during COVID are trying to make it all back and more in one fell swoop!

Last edited 11 months ago by Dave

You know Jerry, your right. Well put.

Ray Galvan

Energy Independence was the solution before we turned our back on it! Price gouging has nothing to do with businesses trying to make up for losses during covid! Manufacturers, retailers, small business all have one thing in common that’s forcing them to raise prices and that’s energy! Thanks to the Weekend at Bernie’s crew for taking over our government and turning their back on energy Independence.

Stacey King

What do you think a fair profit is for a manufacturer? Remember, if you sell through a dealer network, then they have to make room for them, in the profit model.

Every business I’ve worked with can not make it work on 35% margin. Margin is calculated, by taking your cost, divide it by the opposite of your goal. Example:

Cost – $400
Margin – $400 divided by .65
Price – $615

So, most companies I’ve been around, not just the audio industry, works with a margin around 75% or higher.

Cost – $400
Margin – $400 divided by .25
Price – $1600

So, if you look at the margin dollars, that’s not enough, unless you work on inventory turns (or units sold). This is what makes the Schiit model so compelling. I bet the Moro on great margins; however, they also work on production turns.

Stacey King

If a manufacturer isn’t working on 75% plus margin, they will run out of cash, quickly…

Inflation is real to the consumer; and, it’s real to the manufacturers. I’m sure there are some that take advantage of the conditions; however, I’m not sure which ones.

Look at Decware… those UFO variants are affordable and don’t appear to be inflating too much.

Stacey King

I’m sure some companies are inflating prices, no doubt. That said, I agree with your article! I went to the latest Audio Advice, Live show recently. Some of the prices of things are crazy. I have a hard time believing these prices are warranted, to get good sound, not necessarily because of inflation or margins, just because they can.

The recent Monitor Audio speaker (their new 75K – 90K speaker) is nice; however, the real challenge, is to build a very satisfying system using more affordable equipment.

These cost, no object, systems are out of the price range, for the majority of music lovers. That is why you see a 2 year waiting list, for brands like Decware. That’s where the peak of the bell curve is, regarding the market.

Additionally, I’m sure some of the Chinese brands create good sound; however, I would rather more money be spent with reputable American companies, if possible. We need to keep as much of the supply chain here, as we can.

Nonetheless, I say “No” to the extremely high priced items! What happened to you Audio Research?

Marc Tubes

I own the CHORD Mojo and I’m very happy with it as both a DAC in my system and headphone amp. For years I waited for CHORD to capitalize on their newfound international fame and release a Mojo and Poly combo as a single product. They literally had an eternity to figure it out. (And had they incorporated tubes into that product, fuggetaboutit.) Instead, they came out with the Mojo2 and the price of the Poly skyrocketed to 1000$ CAD, more that the Mojo2 itself! What’s going on, CHORD? Why am I all of a sudden being charged more for a wireless adapter? That stunt was so infuriating. Surely CHORD could’ve used even a fraction of the last decade to come up with a DAC/streamer by simply merging the Mojo and Poly into one product. (And while you’re at it, just stick in some Korg NuTubes like Cayin did on their flagship N8ii DAP.)
Cheers from Montreal.

Ross Warren

Sadly the ever-increasing prices of even mid-level systems, let alone “high end” systems will keep many out of this hobby forever, or they’ll make do with cheap AVRs or Chi-Fi class-D amps, sub-$500 bookshelf speakers, and call it a day. Just as someone thinking of getting into photography sees cameras costing $2000 and lenses just as much thinks, “Hmmm, guess I’ll just use my cellphone”.

Luis A Martinez

Absolutely right! I have a salesperson at my local high-end audio store actively pursuing me to buy a $6,500.00 USD McIntosh int. amp. I don’t doubt the amp is great. In addition, other people at the store have commented on the int. amp. I have with condescension and / or derision. But in the demo for the McIntosh I was not floored by anything utterly different from my int amp at home. Moreover, recently I had a conversation with a high-up representative from the company that builds the sub-woofer I have, (REL) and he asked what int amp I had. I immediately felt embarrassed. Just like when nudity is demanded of you, on the spot, in front of everyone. (I am a modest person. I am reasonably fit for a man my age. But I am not inclined to be flashing around my body.). After a few excruciating nano-seconds I managed to utter my int. amp. brand name and model and grinned to bear what would come of it. To my surprise his answer was “ Nothing is wrong with your amp. That is an excellent piece of equipment.” Happiness entered my life. My $2,100.00 USD Japan-built int amp is not chopped liver and I don’t need to buy a $6,500.00 int amp. right now. I might if I needed to exhibit the “bling bling” luxury stuff. But I don’t. I am an audiophile but I am also a music lover. If music had a body I would go to the bedroom with it and never be seen again. My int amp, which is 2 years old, still surprises me with its abilities. I am fine where I am. I am sure the McIntosh is wonderful to a lot of people. But I am not sure I should embark in more debt at this point. As a country we have to learn to leave behind the compulsion to continually improve. Instead we should learn to appreciate what we already have that is quite wonderful. After all we all are mortal.
Thank you.


This site and persons story is very awesome and inspiring! (Site owner) I dig the site bro!

Brandon Millerd

I just wanted to say that I experienced a terrific deal from PS Audio. I purchased a P3 A/C Regenerator mid last year for $1500 cuz it was on sale. The current price is rediculous tho, $3000.

David Bentsen

I’ve been saying NO so much that saying YES feels negative.

arne boberg

A big chunk of any system are the amps and speakers. That can all be taken care of by buying active speakers. To save even more money, go with pro audio monitors – no fine cabinetry, grills, or marketing hype. You can really get a lot of good sound for your money. I got the Adam Audio S3Vs, and didn’t really know how good they were until I really started listening to them. My next move: upgrading my $400 DAC to an R2R – some huge values in ChiFi, here.


This is interesting to read. I sympathize, speaking as an Australian hifi nut, where prices have always been over inflated because of shipping and Australians historically just put up with what we call an “Australia tax”, which is a company, typically in the car industry, charging whatever it likes just because it can.

In 2001, I remember accidentally seeing the cost price to the store of a pair of B&W 802s. Cost price was AUD $11k and retail was $18k. I was aghast.

Years later I ended up with my forever speakers, a second hand pair of monsters- Polk SDA SRS 1.2s – that I got off eBay and have loved for over 12 years.

Once you go second hand, very hard to go back to paying those ridiculous new prices on hi fi gear you know is just massively marked up. That’s how I’m saying No, Jerry 😊


PS. In 1990, statement speakers from high end manufacturers like Apogee could be bought for under AUD$10k, which was expensive but not impossible on an average wage. 30 years later, a pair of statement speakers from many brands go into hundreds of thousands, eg Focal Grande Utopia is AUD$450k, Wilson is in the same la-la land, and totally unattainable.

What the heck happened?


Send in the k*ller drones! This is the most subversive thing i’ve read in a while lol.
100% agree

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