How to get the best value and how much to budget for when buying hi-fi equipment.

Author: Toby  

Aright, so I am just going to put this out there… You CANNOT buy a good home theatre or hi-fi package for $500. You just can’t. It’s like buying a $500 laptop and we all know what they are like… Slow, painful, 2hr battery life and thick as a brick.

Instead of trying to buy a complete 5.1 package with that $500 budget of yours, why not curb that enthusiasm and go for something simple and affordable like a sound bar, the iPad equivalent of the home theatre market.

Still with me? No… Well we know that iPads are really simple, relatively cheap compared with laptops, useful for web browsing, emails, YouTube and little else? Well that’s what a sound bar is to the theatre market. Easy to use, simple and sound fine for TV and movies, however they aren’t going to outperform that $4999 home theatre pack you’ve been drooling over, no matter how good the reviews are.  

Why not you ask? Physics. Look at the size of the actual speaker drivers, volume of the cabinet and materials used. As long as your expectations are realistic you will be happy with a sound-bar, but there are better alternatives out there for those who are willing to invest a little more.

Ok, so how much should I budget for then… you might ask.

Well, that’s a good question. I recommend a MINIMUM of at least around $1,200 - $2,000. Why? Because at this price point, the sound and build quality takes a quantum leap from plastic, tinny, mosquito speakers to equipment that actually sounds like the real deal! The automotive equivalent of going from a go-cart to Toyota Corolla with actual airbags and doors!

Hang on, I don’t want the Toyota corolla equivalent of hi-fi… I want the Rolls Royce!

Whoa, slow down there prospective audio enthusiast. There are a few more steps to take before we reach that level. After all you can spend as much as a house on home theatre & hi-fi if you really want (don’t believe me? google high end hi-fi and ogle at the prices). Here at Stereo Sales we don’t deal in the Rolls Royce segment of the market, we focus more on the middle of the road customer who just wants the best bang for their buck.

Ok, so if the Rolls Royce of hi-fi actually costs as much as a real Rolls Royce then what else is out there?

Plenty. The best value sound systems for the average consumer falls into the $3000 - $15,000 price range depending on the complexity and size of the set up. For most people who just want a single room great sounding theatre/hifi system $4,000 - $6,000 is likely all you need for some excellent quality products! For some people who want multi-room support etc. then you may need to spend a little more. It’s all about keeping your expectations realistic.

That’s quite a large spectrum of prices there. C’mon cut to the chase, how much do I need to spend to get the best value?

Well if you’ve read this far I’m sure you will be disappointed to read that the best value is different for everyone and there is no price/system that suits all. But how can value be different? Would you spend $4,000 on a wrist watch? Probably not, however if you were a deep sea diver whose very life depended on the accuracy of the watch and surfacing at the exact time with little margin for error. Perhaps you might value a watch differently if that was your circumstance. Although hi-fi is a little less of a life and death situation than that example, it illustrates that different people get more value out of different products than others. Don’t care about music quality that much? Buy a sound bar. Want the absolute most immersive theatre experience for you movies? Invest in something substantial and you’ll love every second of it!

Summing up, buy something that gets your toe tapping, your party happening and doesn’t force you to re-mortgage the house in the pursuit of impressing the neighbours. Enter this hobby with an open mind and realistic expectations based on your budget and you will greatly enjoy yourself. Trust your ears!

Hope this has been helpful!

Toby