Everybody wants nice things, but buying nice things isn’t always practical or justified. Since I can’t seem to control my hobbies, I have a tendency to get into something new (and probably expensive) on a whim. This has led me to owning a lot of things I don’t often use. Knowing this about myself, I’ve developed a personal philosophy to never buy the brand name items unless I can justify why I actually need them. So I usually start with the cheapest stuff I can find and use it until it breaks, or I can identify myself what the difference is between the lower-priced items and the brand name items without someone else telling me. This has worked out pretty well for me so far and I applied these principles in a recent purchase I made.
Speakers are one of those mysterious categories of products that you can spend as little as $5 and as much as $100,000 or more for a single speaker. Speakers also have one of the highest diminishing return rates. Once you hit about $500 per speaker, you’re entering a territory where there will be extremely negligible improvements in quality as they get more expensive. I’m a bit of an audiophile. I love nice stereo systems and speakers and have built up a small collection of them, but even I have my limits. The most I’ve spent on a pair of studio monitors is $1500 and I’ve never regretted it. But I feel like I’ve earned the right to buy those nicer speakers because I can tell the difference in quality. But even being the audiophile I am, I will still sacrifice some quality for cost if I can’t see a need to spend more.
I recently decided to upgrade my car stereo. I wanted the whole experience of deciding what to buy and installing it myself (which I later regretted). It’s an older Dodge Durango that I don’t care much about but since I spend a lot of time driving I could justify the cost of a nicer stereo, but had no need for a top-end high-dollar system, especially since cars are subject to all kinds of road noise and bad acoustics. Ironically I was replacing an older Sony stereo and Sony speakers, which would have generally been considered high-end, with some off-branded stuff that was significantly cheaper. I did a lot of research reading reviews and comparing specs across a number of websites and ultimately decided on several items I would buy from Amazon.com.
I spent two days installing everything myself and realized this is definitely a job for the professionals. My work looks just as good as the pro’s but simply wasn’t worth the time I spent doing it for what it would have cost me to have it installed. I am however VERY pleased with the quality sound I get from it and I would go so far to say it probably sounds better than most upgraded manufacturer’s car stereos.
All-in-all I spent about $300 for a new head-unit, an amplifier, four speakers and a subwoofer. Comparable quality, name brand items, would have run me almost $600. If I decide somewhere down the road that I want something better I may splurge for the name brand stuff, but for now I’m quite happy with my purchase and I saved myself about $300. So don’t be afraid to try the lower end brands from time to time. If you can’t tell why you need something better, you don’t need something better. Chances are they were manufactured in the same place anyway.