In an interesting interview at CEPro, Alan Parsons, the man who engineered Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and yes, had his own Project, says that room acoustics are far more important than audiophile gear. In fact, the interview led one Slashdot commenter to post this fine quip: "Audiophiles don't use their equipment to listen to your music. Audiophiles use your music to listen to their equipment." From CEPro:
What is the biggest thing that both electronics dealers and enthusiast consumers should do when setting up home theater/sound systems?
(Parsons:) You get what you pay for. But having said that, there are some decent budget surround systems you can buy at Costco or Walmart that really aren’t bad. Everybody has their budget; the hi-fi world will tell you if money is no object you can get better results out of every component - even the surface the amplifier sits on. Pro sound people have different expectations; they are only concerned that a piece of gear works and allows them to do their job. Hi-fi people spend huge amounts of money for tiny improvements, and pro sound guys will say, “I can spend half as much and get the results I need.”
I’m simply not very familiar with the latest domestic hi-fi equipment. I don’t go to hi-fi trade shows and I don’t have sophisticated equipment in the family areas of my house for music, but there are things that make sense like good speakers and a decent amp. But I dare say there would only be a small improvement if I bought a $20,000 amp. I can live with what I have.
I do think in the domestic environment, the people that have sufficient equipment don’t pay enough attention to room acoustics. The pro audio guy will prioritize room acoustics and do the necessary treatments to make the room sound right. The hi-fi world attaches less importance to room acoustics, and prioritizes equipment; they are looking more at brand names and reputation.
"Beatles, Pink Floyd Engineer Alan Parsons Rips Audiophiles" (Thanks, Pat Kelly!)