Price Matters


Besides writing for The Absolute Sound, Audiophile Review, and Home Theater Review, I also write for the venerable guitar monthly, Vintage Guitar Magazine. Recently I received a new acoustic guitar for review where I had no idea what about its price. This occasionally happens, usually because the instrument is so new that it hasn't been officially released yet.

For this particular instrument there were two versions, one priced at $599 and the other at $3999. Looking at the pictures on the Internet it was impossible to tell which version I had received for review. It wasn't until several days had passed when I discovered that I had the $3999 version. During the previous couple of days I had wrongly assumed that I had the $599 one.

When I learned that I had the premium version I was disappointed. The guitar would have been a stunning achievement for $599, but for $3999 it was only just OK. Obviously the performance of the guitar hadn't changed, but my perceptions of the instrument's relative value sure had.

I sometimes experience same thing with audio gear. A $1000 DAC, when compared to other $1000 DACs, could be an outstanding value. But if that same DAC was $10,000 rather than $1000, it might not be such a standout performer, but merely average for that price-class. The old saying, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Comes to mind. Products must always be considered IN CONTEXT, and one of the primary contexts is its price and other competing products at a similar price.

I often lament the fact that many audio reviewers end up getting "typecast" by chance or choice into reviewing particular price-point of gear. Some reviewers rarely touch "entry-level" gear, while others specialize in it. In a perfect world all reviewers should cover a wide range of price-points. Because only by hearing both budget and high-end gear can a reviewer get a handle on what is really an above-average product, regardless of whether it's $100 or $100,000.


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