High-end audio is a class of consumer home audio equipment marketed to audiophiles on the basis of high price or quality, and esoteric or novel sound reproduction technologies. The term can refer simply to the price, to the build quality of the components, or to the subjective or objective quality of sound reproduction.
The distinction between the terms high-end and high-fidelity (hi-fi) is not well defined. According to one industry commentator, high-end could be defined as "gear below which’s price and performance one could not go without compromising the music and the sound". Harry Pearson, founder of The Absolute Sound magazine, is widely acknowledged to have coined the term "high-end audio".
High-end audio equipment can be extremely expensive. It is sometimes referred to as cost-no-object equipment. Audiophile equipment can run the gamut from budget to high-end in terms of price range. Companies such as Wilson Audio and Nordost Corporation are well-known for their highly priced products.
The human sense of hearing is subjective and difficult to define. Psychoacoustics is a division of acoustics that studies this field.
Measurements can be deceiving; high or low figures of certain technical characteristics do not necessarily offer a good representation of how the equipment sounds to each person. For example, some valve (vacuum tube) amplifiers produce greater amounts of total harmonic distortion, but this type of distortion (2nd harmonic) is not as disturbing to the ear as the higher order distortions produced by poorly designed transistor equipment. The terms "high-end audio" and "audiophile" are typically used disparagingly by Audio Engineering Society members, who feel that the term "high end audio" is vague, concerning the widely varying performance of the products sold in this premium price segment, and that an "audiophile" is too often a person who is overly suggestible to the marketing claims from manufacturers and sellers.
The validity of certain products are often questioned by those outside the industry include accessories such as speaker wires utilizing exotic materials (such as Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC)) and construction geometries, cable stands for lifting them off the floor (as a way to control mechanically induced vibrations), connectors, sprays and other tweaks.
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- SOUND; How About a Pair of Loudspeakers Priced at $65,000?, New York Times, 1987
- The Truth About High End, As We See It, by J. Gordon Holt, October 1982
- A. Colin Flood (July 2014). "Oxygen Free Copper Wire Worthy of the hype?". Enjoy the Music.com. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
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