The Relentless monoblock amplifier from Dan D’Agostino. Launched at Munich High-End 2018 (see above). Inside: a potted and shielded transformer; ‘Super Rail’ turbocharged power stages; mechanically-grounded capacitors. The first 100 Watts spill from the unit’s gold-plated brass binding posts in Class A to give 1500 Watts into 8 Ohms; 6000 Watts into 2 Ohms. An eight-inch-wide power meter fronts a solid aluminium chassis, supported by 307 feet. At 230 kg the Relentless is no flyweight. One for each loudspeaker; two for stereo. Brace yrself: these shiny beasts sell for US$250,000/pair.
A pair of Relentless would be complete overkill for entry-level standmounts. They are for big, hulking high-end floorstanders like the Wilson WAMM Master Chronosonic (US$685,000/pair) or the YG Sonja VX (US$105,000/pair).
To the other side of our imaginary Relentless system, we must add a pre-amplifier. How about a Bespoke Audio pre-amp at £9000? Or a Lamm L2.1 Reference at US$22,790? Alternatively, going DAC direct from a dCS Vivaldi into the monos bypasses the outboard pre-amplifier to add £55,000 to the final bill.
In 2018, it’s not so difficult for those with cash and intent to drop a million bucks on a high-end hifi system. However, component selection isn’t where the bank account wipeout ends. It’s where it starts.
Any audiophile worth his salt will tell you of the need for a proper listening room when spending this kind of cash. The Relentless monoblocks command some serious floor space. And with large floorstanding loudspeakers in tow, our Summit-Fi system really ought to play into a well-treated room where a full work-up of acoustic treatments maximises its potential. Anything less would piss system performance – and therefore money – down the drain.
On a more fundamental level, the room will need to be large enough to accommodate the YG or the Wilson (or Living Voice or Avantgarde or JBL), both physically and acoustically. An average inner-city apartment or suburban two bedroom semi just won’t cut it.
That moves our uber high-end playback scenario into big-ticket real estate territory where, for the average first-world city dweller, not even a sniff of something sufficiently sizeable can be had for less than a million bucks. Move the outlook from the USA to the more densely populated parts of Asia and the real estate price pain increases five-fold. Maybe even tenfold.
Even if the total hardware spend doesn’t tip seven figures, the real estate required to
accommodate to do proper justice to uber-high-end audio gear most certainly will.
The total cost of audio system ownership includes the apartment/house in which it sits.
According to the US Census Bureau, only 3.65% of households in the USA enjoyed an income of over $200,000/year in 2016. That tells us, somewhat predictably, that Summit-Fi ownership is a game for the 1%-ers.
As above, so below…
That same 2016 US census tells us that “persons with doctorates in the United States had an average [annual] income of roughly $81,400.” That figure drops to $59,000/year once education status is removed. No wonder so many music lovers are turning to headphones to get their high-end audio kicks.
Whatever their budget, loudspeaker listeners must coat their coat – loudspeaker and electronics choices – to their cloth – the room. The smaller the listening space, the more our hifi ambitions need to be scaled back.
A previous edition of this site’s Global Feedback column reported 19% of 480 poll respondents enjoy the luxury of a dedicated listening room. That leaves 81% to put their hifi system in lounge/family rooms where room treatments don’t always fly, financially or aesthetically.
The Berlin apartment in which I presently live is a one bedroom deal. Two floors connected by a spiral staircase. Unlike my previous Sydney digs, the kitchen and lounge room (where I listen) are fully separated to leave the latter measuring 6m x 5m. Into 30 sqm, Wilson and YG floorstanders don’t go. The D’Agostino monos would eat a third of the floor space between loudspeaker plane and listening chair.
You can guess what comes next. How big is the room in which your hifi system sits?
No need to measure your dedicated listening space or family room down to the last millimetre but those with L-shaped rooms are asked to report on only the part of the room that enjoys line of sight to the loudspeakers. This is a metric show where sqm = square metre. Imperialists are advised that there are approximately three feet to a metre.
All responses are anonymous. The poll will run for a week.