Last night I was part of a bluegrass show at the Altona Grange in Longmont, CO. During the course of the evening I was talking with a fine banjo player and Facebook friend, Big John. He told me how much he liked reading my blogs about audio. He then told me he had what I "would probably consider a mid-fi set up" with a fairly new Denon receiver and a pair of fifteen year-old Klipsch speakers. And I told him, "It ain't the car, it's the driver. If your gear is set up right it will sound way better than mid-fi."
This conversation brings up two points.
First, I do believe that almost any mid-fi or better component made during the last ten years that is functioning to its published specifications is capable of sounding very good if properly used in a well set-up system. I don't care if a system costs $2000 or $200,000, if it isn't room-appropriately set-up it has the potential to sound bad. Conversely, there are some set-up experts who could take a $2000 system, put it in the right sized room, and make it sound better than a $200,000 super-system shoehorned into an inappropriate environment.
Set-up and the room are the two most important parts of a system. Period.
Second, what is it about out hobby that makes us apologize about it all the time? I'm as guilty as anyone...someone asks me about my system and what it costs and I hesitate...Can they really handle the truth? $50K for a stereo? Hell yes! And that's my less expensive room-based system. Watch, car, and art collectors don't feel the same unease around the cost of admission to their hobbies. Why do we?