Price vs. Performance – What ARE You Paying For?

I, like many audio enthusiasts, see and hear products that sell for what sounds like the annual budget of a small country. It’s likely that spending the equivalent dollars can get you those musicians live on retainer. So, what do you get when you plunk down that kind of cash – and is it worth it?

The “worth it” question is one that occurs in many areas. Is a Rolls Royce worth X-many Cadillac’s? Is a Ferrari worth X-many Corvettes? Is a Rolex worth X-many Casio’s? The answer lies in definitions of “worth it” and to whom.

While a Rolex may not keep better time than a Casio, the other examples offer incrementally improved performance for the huge increase in cost.

We’ve talked about audio collecting and car collecting before, and as discussed, my tastes run to Corvettes rather than Ferraris. For those who know and care, I’d happily own the new 2015 Corvette Z06 with Z07 Performance Package, with the 6.2 liter V8 supercharged V-8 engine generating 650 HP, 8-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission, and GT bucket seats.

I don’t drive on a closed track or highway. The ‘Vette gives me the performance and feel I want for the kind of driving I would actually do. Yes, the Ferrari has performance not found in the ‘Vette, but it does so at great cost and provides performance I don’t need and would never use. Actually a Smart Car may make more sense in New York City.

A closely held private company reflects the personality of its owner. The fundamental questions for us at Ohm are how to define real world quality and improvements in audio gear.

At Ohm, we believe the most important improvements are verifiable changes, using blind testing, to a more accurate, more natural reproduction of acoustic music. Materials, styling, fit and finishing all have value; but our designs concentrate on sound. Once you consider improvements that are only verifiable with sighted evaluations, the “value” becomes very much like beauty – it “is in the eyes of the beholder.” It is sort of like what a president of Rolex reportedly said that he was not in the watch business, but in the luxury business. Ohm is in the speaker business.

The audio world is large. We leave the world of “luxury audio” to other manufacturers and to their customers. We understand the concept of “ultimate audio,” but we design and build speakers to provide sonic performance that people will actually use and enjoy. We aim for “luxury sound” at affordable prices.

So, the question “Is it worth it?” is one that comes down to what a consumer is looking for and how that consumer values a product. There is no question that pride of owning “the best widget in the world” has value, but that value may not include demonstrable, aurally perceptible performance. For us, “real world” quality is the goal.

Enjoy & Good Listening!


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John Strohbeen Author

John Strohbeen was the President and Chief Engineer of Ohm Acoustics from 1978-2023.

John Strohbeen

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