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High-end audio isn’t always the best choice, but it can be stunning

One of the best parts of my job is getting to listen to and spend time with truly amazing sound systems that I could never afford. As any audiophile will tell you, listening to a song that means something to you on speakers that don’t limit the music can be a transformative experience. Knowing that, is it worth spending more than $10,000 on a sound system? Probably not, but it depends on how you listen to music.

One of my mottos is that life is too short for bad quality audio. Being able to hear is something I’ll never take for granted, and often it’s those little details in songs — like the scrapes on steel strings or the sound of a well-worn, frayed brush on a snare — that makes them come to life.

At $2200, the CXA81 amplifier without speakers or player costs almost as much as a complete 2.1 Sonos setup.

At $2200, the CXA81 amplifier without speakers or player costs almost as much as a complete 2.1 Sonos setup.

But there is an ocean of difference between the sound from a $5 novelty Bluetooth speaker that makes your soul shrivel and the $90,000 Meridian Audio system that managed to bring a tear to my eye even when it was playing a punk song called Ballad Of A Ladyman. Somewhere in that gap is the right system for you, though for most people the price tag will be closer to a dubious used car being sold on Facebook than a house deposit.

I’ve been lucky enough to be quarantined with a brilliant Sonus faber and Cambridge Audio system, which the owners couldn’t pick up for months due to the pandemic rules. The $6495 Sonetto III floor standing speakers sounded brilliant, with every tone reproduced just right. The $2195 Gravis II subwoofer conveyed those deep, low tones with a richness that didn’t overwhelm. The $2190 CXA81 amplifier provided more than enough power to either deafen my neighbours or give the music room to breathe. And the $1899 CXN (v2) network music player and $599 AXC35 CD player gave it music to play. If you sat in just the right spot in the living room, it sounded like every band I ever loved was playing a concert just for me.

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