To say that high-end audio is an expensive venture would likely not receive much in the way of disagreement from audiophiles. Almost regardless of one's budget, writing those checks can often times be somewhat painful. This action is hopefully tempered by wonderful music and perhaps a "collection" of components to which pride and admiration may be attached. Of the various and popular hobbies in which most guys participate, high end is certainly not the only expensive one.
I have an acquaintance and former business associate who is an avid watch collector. Out of the blue recently, he called to catch up and talk about what was going on. After a time reminiscing, I asked him if he was still collecting watches. "Oh yes," he replied, "but the cost is getting really crazy."
My friend has a variety of styles of watches and at varying prices. Dress, casual, sports, divers and chronograph are among the types he collects. He told me he doesn't necessarily collect only expensive watches - yet he has a Rolex. And he was telling me about how much he would love to have a Panerai Luminor Marina. If you've never heard of that brand before, don't worry, most people probably haven't. So how much does it cost you ask? It's a bargain at $150,000.
My first reaction was to exclaim "for a watch?" "Ah," he told me, "its not only about telling time, it's the exclusivity, the design and the craftsmanship." He relished in the fact that this was a hand made watch that took weeks to make and assemble. My silence on the phone was met with a "you still there?" I was but I was dumbfounded how his comment sounded so much like something an audiophile might say about an audio system. It also dawned on me how the whole practice of Audiophilia could legitimately be considered a collectible activity.
If I were not engaged in the audio hobby I might well be collecting vintage muscle cars. My first choice would be something from GM in the 1967 to 1969 time frame. In fact, back in 2010 when I was considering building a new sound system, I gave real strong consideration to muscle cars instead. Since audio was really my main interest I went that way but I'd still love to have a 1967 GTO Tri Power.
In looking at the cost of many of these vintage cars, it is easy to spend a huge sum of money. My 67 "Goat" for instance, could easily cost in the low six figures for a world class, ground up, frame off, total restoration. What's more, it could take a year or more just to effect the restoration, leaving no opportunity to drive the thing while being rebuilt. Even a nicely done renovation could cost in the $40K to $60K neighborhood. I'd say that much money could buy a pretty nice sound system and it doesn't need gasoline! When you consider that the car brand new in 1967 only cost about five grand, the restored cost takes on a whole different dimension.
An audio system can certainly be considered a "collectible." Many audiophiles have more than one piece of equipment for any one component. Or maybe they might have a second system. How many of us have amps, speakers, turntables and other components in a closet waiting on a day for which their use might never come? We collect pieces of our system, as well as the music we play on them, just as a watch or vintage car collector does the same. We view them with pride and in return get immense joy and satisfaction. It almost seems like at that point the price we've paid is inconsequential.
As audiophiles, we all know how much gear costs. We can strive to find deals on equipment, or discover that rare LP in some dusty corner of the used section of a record store. We can collect watches, cars, wine or what ever. High cost can be, and usually is a common denominator in any of these endeavors.
So if the cost of high-end audio is getting you down, you can always turn to watches. And if the Panerai Luminor Marina doesn't quite do it for you, maybe you might opt for the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon. That little beauty will only set you back $1.45 million. Yes, for a watch. And you thought audio was expensive!