Gryphon Pandora Preamplifier, Magico S5 MkII Speakers, Sonorus Reel-to-Reel Deck, Acoustic Signature Storm Turntable, Synergistic Research cables, Artesiana Racks

Oh boy, was soundstaging excitingly three-dimensional in the Scott Walker room that headlined Gryphon electronics. Listening to 15ips tapes played on a Sonorus reel-to-reel deck ($19,500) by Philip O'Hanlon, of Gryphon distributor On a Higher Note, the extraordinary depth on Sarah Vaughan's "When Your Lover Has Gone" certainly seized my attention.

Switching to LP, and trying not to raise my eyebrows too high on Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra's dated "All I Need is the Girl," I thought brass and mids were conveyed to near-perfection. The midrange also excelled on a CD of Shirley Horn and Toots Thielman's "Beautiful Love." Kudos to Philip for managing to cover so many formats so seamlessly. Kudos as well to Gryphon's Pandora preamp with phono stage ($39,500), Antelion EVO amplifier ($39,500), and Scorpio S CD player ($9900); Magico S5 MkII Speakers ($41,800/pair); Acoustic Signature Storm Turntable with TA2000 arm ($11,000); Artesiana Racks and Stands ($12,000 total); and Synergistic Research Galileo PowerCell SX power conditioner ($16,995), Galileo SX cabling ($79,500), and various and sundry room acoustics products ($4500).

CG's picture


Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I covered a lot of rooms. The big ones are inevitably occupied by purveyors of high-figure systems. Other reports are coming. It is fully possible to be totally consumed by high-end audio without becoming a CEO, winning the lottery, taking out a second mortgage on your home, or telling your child, "Sorry, no college money for you, but don't you just love how Wynton Marsalis sounds on the system?"


Bogolu Haranath's picture

You missed at least a couple of things that can make people rich .... Expensive divorce settlement :-) ......

Another one is to be a lawyer for a porn star :-) ........

Jim Austin's picture

CG, I thought I'd chime in. First: If your aspiration is to be a jerk, you need more practice and maybe more mentoring. There are others around here who can provide excellent examples. :-)

As to the actual point you raise: I share your concern, but my observation is that the hobby is not hollowing out in the middle. Good things are happening there. Shows tend to be about flashy stuff--and as Jason said, there's much more to come in his coverage. But it seems to be quite a good time for equipment that people with modest incomes can reasonably aspire to own. In Munich, the million-dollar systems were abundant, but there was also a fair amount of budget stuff (mostly on static display) and quite a bit of lower-priced stuff from established high-end brands (Levinson, Aesthetix, Krell). It's a good time to be an audiophile.

Jim Austin, Editor

CG's picture


Jim Austin's picture

CG, I went to Munich. It's too big a show to take it all in (and write about it!), but I heard and saw a nice chunk of what was there. It was, in my opinion, a trophy-system show. Only a handful of somewhat affordable stuff was actually making sounds: the Krell integrated I mentioned; the Levinson 5802--cousin to the 5805 I reviewed for the July issue; SVS, always making nice sounds for not much money; I put GoldenEar in the same category: this stuff is far from cheap, but I think it's good value. Aspirational for regular folks who care a lot about music in their homes. There were way more upper-six-figure systems on active display, reaching up to a couple million plus. So, IMO, Munich wasn't better than Long Beach in this respect.

Otherwise, I'll just say that I'm completely confident that a $4000 system today would be superior to a $400 dorm-room system from 1975. Vastly.

My Best,

Jim Austin, Editor

Ortofan's picture

... been scraping the bottom of the entry-level components barrel.
$200 would have bought a bottom-of-the-line stereo receiver, from Kenwood or Sansui, capable of only 10-15W output. A low-end belt-drive manual turntable, from Pioneer or Sony, would cost about $100 - maybe including a ($25) cartridge with a spherical stylus that (hopefully) tracked at 2g. A low cost pair of bookshelf speakers, from the likes of AR or EPI, would have been another $150.
Discounts seemed more widespread back then, so you could probably get such a system out the door for $400.

By comparison, $4K today looks like a princely sum.
$750 buys a Yamaha R-N803 receiver, which can output over 130W into 8Ω and over 200W into 4Ω, and includes streaming capability and a room correction function. Up to about $1200 would buy a direct-drive turntable from Audio-Technica or Pioneer, or a mid-range belt-drive model from Rega or Pro-Ject. That leaves over $2K remaining for speakers, an amount that would easily cover the cost of the KEF LS50 - which JA1 reportedly uses at home - not to mention many other great options from KEF, B&W, PSB, Dynaudio, ELAC, Klipsch, Revel, Focal ...

Robin Landseadel's picture

Bought my first "real" audio system during my senior year of High School. 1973. Paid $700 + something, got a used pair of AR-3's, new AR integrated amp and the AR-XA table with a Shure 91 [ed?] cartridge. The drivers didn't really blend coherently until one was 15 feet away from them and this was a bedroom system, said room being 10' x 12' x 8' and the bass usually being louder in the next room. Did not go well with the folks at home, seeing what sort of bass those speakers could produce. The AR-3's went down deep, had a hole in the upper-midrange/lower treble that served as an effective click/pop filter. But I've heard better for less since them. There is something "wonky" about all those "classic" early acoustic suspension designs. Stacked Advents were/are better no matter what.

The AR amp was ok, no more. An Onkyo 8020 is better overall.

The AR XA turntable was the outlier of the batch. If set up right it would sing. There's the rub. Just like the Linn LP-12, the natural progeny of the AR XA, it's a tweekaholic's dream/nightmare, endless frustrating hours can be spend getting things "just right". But when you did, it was hard to beat. Allow me to note that the best sounding example of that classic deck was owned and operated by a lute player. Lute players know how to tune things.

Right now, I spend most of my hours listening to $300 of DAP 'n' headgear, can hear further into the mix than I could with any other gear I have owned so far.

rt66indierock's picture

I can put together a stunning system for $4,000 except for the digital cables and software. The consumer version of the speakers were in Room 408.

But I'm glad I had a frequency analyzer and a small mic. The highs were AOL in the Hilton's rooms. Who knows maybe the Convention Center next door will be better.

shp's picture

Your Porsche index got my attention. Sure enough, from 1975 to 2019, the price is about 10x.

I did a few searches.

It seems at the low end in the 1970's, a Kenwood was $250, a Sony was $400, and a McIntosh was $949. It is easy to find a modern receiver ranging from $2,500 to $9,490. In fact, McIntosh's top receiver is only $7,500. It still includes an MM/MC phono stage, adds a DAC and remote, and puts out 200 WPC vs. the 1900's 55 WPC (

Plus, in 2019 we can still buy receivers that are under $200 current dollars. We can even just talk to them and tell them what we want to hear.

I think the real change is how completely the industry focuses on the elite products vs. the more mundane. Currently Recommended Components has only 4 receivers costing less than $1,000 and 7 below $2,000, counting the slightly over-budget Peachtree. (Meanwhile, Amazon lists 4 for under $200 here

That isn't a knock on Stereophile. I'm sure the magazine's advertising rates would drop if its target demographic only had $400 to spend. Circulation would drop as well because we all want to know how the unobtainable stuff sounds.

johnnythunder's picture

Hi. I think the devastation of this fire will have a long term impact on our hobby. Provenance of the original master tapes is a huge part of why we buy certain reissues. Fremer discusses this all the time in AP. I think a serious follow up should be done by Stereophile / Analog Planet on this.

Ortofan's picture

... the "good old days" when a high-end audio system meant a McIntosh MAC1900 receiver, a pair of Acoustic Research AR3a speakers and a Dual 1249 automatic turntable with a Shure V15 Type III cartridge?
System price back then was just under $2K - or about $9K today, as adjusted for inflation.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

That audiophile system is lot less expensive than a 50 year old bottle of Glenlivet single malt scotch, which sells for $45,000 :-) .........

Robin Landseadel's picture

I recall AR 3's sucking more than the 3's.

zimmer74's picture

was the following: AR (Acoustic Research) turntable and Shure cartridge, about $85. AR 4x speakers, $63. AR integrated amplifier, $250. I owned that system for 8 years, and it was immensely satisfying. Hard to for me to compare to a $4K system these days, since it probably wouldn't have a turntable, or at least not one as good as the AR, the first suspension turntable and the model for the Linn.

ok's picture

is that any megabuck extremity can easily sound as bad as anything.

Robin Landseadel's picture

I recall that the most expensive gear I heard at the Stereophile show in the late 1990's was also the most boring.

ok's picture

that some haphazard audio travel show makes an actual sound for me.

CG's picture

(content and author deleted)

Ortofan's picture

... encounter these "gems" would be at a Best Buy store that has a Magnolia department within it.

Yet it's also possible to find them at some local hi-fi stores.
A McIntosh dealer near me also sells Yamaha, B&W and Rega.
The least expensive Yamaha receiver or integrated amp they stock sells for about $300-350. About the same for a CD player. The entry-level Rega turntable is about $500. A pair of B&W bookshelf speakers runs about $550-600. So, a complete system can be assembled for well under $2K.

Anton's picture

1) My wife has been to a zillion shows with me, CES, THE, CAS...

I brought home a pair of sub-1000 dollar speakers that REG (a reviewer) had loved. I told her they were on loan.

Played them for her and asked how much she thought they cost. She said, "They sound better than most 60,000 speakers, so I'll guess 10,000 dollars."

That's why I love her!

We all fall prey to thinking that the higher the price, the better the sound. It's the hallmark of how some perceive the sound of gear. Then, even if the gear sounds that good, it compels many people to minimize it's performance by finding some way to imply that more expensive is still better. For fun, watch how reviews, in general, are written. (Nothing to do this anybody here, just a generalization.)

Just write it off as us being humans!

2) In 1960, the average person with an average job could enter the hobby and play at the top end of the hobby. We have inflated way past that and I can understand people taking umbrage over the upward price spiral...

Heck, look at the price of, say, Klipsch La Scala speakers over the past 20 years. No new R&D, probably cheaper to make given newer technology, but the price has gone to 12,000 dollars per pair.

I get it, these are Veblen/Giffen goods now, but hobbiests should be allowed to kvetch about the upper end of their hobby leaving them behind.

None of that was meant to "be a jerk."