My love for the ID model and appreciation for what Dave, Dina & Co. do here was given a boost recently when I went into a (very famous, long established) high-end audio retailer to demo some equipment....we had recently heard some MQA files through big B&Ws and my wife had got bitten by the audio bug too, so even though she loves our Ascends we thought we'd duck in to hear what some serious $$$ audiophile gear sounds like.

Short answer: I have rarely felt so condescended to in my life! We made it clear that we were aspirational shoppers, just trying to learn more while plotting an upgrade path, and this particular shop owner's attitude was basically that if you're not willing to pay $20K for speakers, or $60K for a transport/DAC combo, then you are basically something to be scraped off the bottom of his shoe. He was far more interested in showing us receipts for all the expensive gear he had sold recently. He even turned his nose up at B&Ws, though he sells them--he basically said we could get a pair of [more expensive brand] or nothing (not quite that literal, but close).

On the plus side, the guy *was* nice enough to let us audition a couple of tracks on his 100K-plus reference system, but it kind of ruined the mystique for me....(uh, okay, so a $100K digital setup is 2x a 50K, exactly?)

Look, I'm not poo-pooing high end (except maybe those $1K/foot cables, which are patently silly imo), but I have to wonder just how much more incredible a $60K transport/DAC setup is compared to a top Oppo...maybe the Oppo would reveal tremendous flaws with Wilsons or Focals, etc., but somehow I doubt it.

I guess the point of this is that the $20K speakers I heard were fantastic, no doubt, and probably better than the $10K B&Ws we recently heard, but I have to wonder if my ears would objectively think they were 3- and 7-times better than RAAL Towers, for example. I'm at the very baby stages of this hobby/obsession so I'm aware of my overarching ignorance, but I still wanted to vent a bit that going into a high-end shop shouldn't feel like entering a cult. At a certain point it goes beyond sound and becomes about fashion, bragging rights, and an insidious form of consumerism-as-superiority.

By contrast, when I took my son into the flagship Tiffany's store in NYC a few years back so he could buy his mom a tiny charm for her charm bracelet, the staff treated him/us like we were royalty, and gave us every bit of attention and courtesy way beyond what our $150 purchase warranted. I wish this guy had the same attitude. I might be putting money away starting today for a high end component.

I'm so glad places like Ascend are here, with such a strong customer focus and without the huge markups and snobbery to go with it!

Happy New Year to you all.