We seem to be living in a time when anything goes – at least when it comes to prices.
I mean, new supercars can sell for 5 million dollars (the new Rolls may be almost three times that!), new watches can reach the same levels, and auction prices on fine art paintings will soon pass half a billion dollars. Sorry, I just had to switch to my browser to make sure that was right – yes, 5 years ago a Leonardo da Vinci canvas sold for 450 million dollars!
And so it is with speakers, and this list of the 12 most expensive loudspeakers ranges from an easy half a million to (spoiler alert!) fully ten times that amount.
Can they possibly be worth such prices? Well, I try to be very clear about not reviewing audio gear I haven’t actually tried myself, and I have to admit I haven’t heard any of these exorbitant exotics, so no comment – though I have to say that in the case of one of them the price may be at least partially based on the big, heavy solid gold cabinet. I mean, I’m sure they sound incredible, but yeah…
So let’s have a quick look, just for fun, at the 12 most expensive speakers in the world today.
At the end of the article, in my Bonus Section, I will prove my point about speaker prices being a bit, uhm, crazy these days – with a look at some of the most iconic, and most expensive, speakers over the last 75 or so years, with their original price and the equivalent in 2023 dollars.
The 12 Most Expensive Speakers on the Planet
Final Audio Opus 204
Retail Price: $450,000
It’s not clear whether this pricey behemoth ever went into production, and there is very little about these speakers anywhere on the web, but they were clearly important to the founder of Final Audio, Kanemori Takai, and he was able to see them completed a year before his death in 2014.
One thing that seems pretty amazing about these speakers is that their overall weight is close to 1,800 pounds, and yet the individual aluminum speaker cones are a super-light 8 grams each. Takai urged people to literally build their houses around the speakers, rather than simply installing them into existing spaces – no word on whether anybody actually followed his advice.
Kharma Enigma Veyron EV-2
Retail Price: $437,000
Six years ago Kharma introduced the massive Enigma Veyron EV-2 loudspeakers as a part of their “continuing program to develop the world’s most technically advanced and aesthetically beautiful audio products.”
With diamond super-tweeters and tweeters (really, pure diamond), and proprietary 7 and 11 inch Omega-F woofers that employ an array of neodymium magnets, and are said to eliminate the eddy-current distortion caused by iron-based magnets, these are certainly technically advanced, but aesthetically beautiful? Sorry, but even with the undoubtedly stunning bulletwood cabinets they look a bit like threateningly oversized and slightly misshapen cellos. Probably sound ok, though.
Backes & Muller BM 100
Retail Price: $500,000
While certainly not a household name, Backes and Muller are true pioneers in what is one of the biggest and most popular trends in audio today – the powered active speaker. In fact, for some fifty years they have been hand-constructing active speakers in their facility in Saarbrücken, Germany, and are known in the industry for innovation and technological advancement as well as for superlative quality.
The result of all of this development and experience, as well as the company’s enthusiastically iconoclastic approach, is the BM 100, an extraordinary looking speaker which eliminates any possibility of standing waves, produces enormous bass energy and has virtually no distortion from its cylinder wave emitter coaxial horn drivers. With computer-optimized phase delivery, true frequency response down to 22 hertz and a full 3,500 watts of power, these must provide a truly overwhelming listening experience.
CAT MBX Powered Speakers
Retail Price: $500,000
Another active powered speaker coming in right around a half million dollars, the CAT MBX powered speakers may or may not look like our included picture – a premium custom speaker manufacturer and installer, California Audio Technologies will make these, or apparently almost any of their speakers, to your own specifications.
As such, CAT MBX speakers (MBX is actually not so much a model as the specially developed resonance-free material CAT uses for their cabinets) have sold for far more than our listed price – up to 16 million dollars for full installations, by some reports! The speakers pictured are 12 foot tall and come in at over 20,000 pounds total weight for the pair – impossible for most spaces, and a bit absurd looking, but by all accounts the sound is simply unbelievable.
Tidal La Assoluta
Retail Price: $550,000
Representing the ideal balance between art and science, the extraordinarily beautiful Tidal La Assoulta are not just perfectly proportioned and lavishly finished with the finest materials available, they are truly advanced, even ground-breaking, speakers.
You can see the evolution of La Assoluta (“The Absolute”) from the original Tidal Sunray, which is visually quite similar. For the next 20 years, though, Tidal engineers broke away from most of the design concepts and execution of that first model, and along the way they developed pure diamond mid and tweeter drivers, as well as the remarkable Assoluta-Unopulse crossover system, perfected phase alignment, eliminated cabinet flex and resonance and included the best, and most luxurious, components and materials all throughout.
Moon Audio Signature Titan II
Retail Price: $550,000
Titan is certainly a fitting name for a speaker that stands over six feet tall and weighs nearly half a ton (each!). Made largely from aircraft grade aluminum and steel, and said to have been developed and manufactured employing technologies from fighter jets, nuclear reactors and even radar jamming from nuclear submarines, the Titan IIs are referred to as “functional acoustic art works.”
These mega-spendy speakers, the passion-project of the remarkably visionary Chris Moon, were originally produced over a decade ago, and the production was meant to stop after three pairs were produced. Back then the first pair had already been sold, but even today, fully 12 years later, there’s no word as to whether the second – which was to be priced at 1 million dollars – or the third – 2 million (!) – ever found homes.
Wilson Audio WAMM Master Chronosonic
Retail Price: $685,000
Wilson Audio has a long history of making the most expensive speakers in the world, starting with the original 32,000 dollar WAMM speakers in 1980. Still, few could have possibly imagined that these enormously innovative speakers could have ever reached such dizzying price levels – these Chronosonics some 20 times as expensive, and even at inflation-adjusted prices are still over a half a million dollars more than the first WAMM!
But while it might not be clear with some of the speakers on this list of most expensive loudspeakers in the world, there is no question that the Wilson WAMM Master Chronosonic (or the even pricier Wilson Infinite Wisdom, just below) is totally worth the money. The research, development and execution in the temporal realm – the correctly synchronized delivery of musical information in time and space – is beyond probably any other company’s work, and the speakers themselves present a sense of holistic reality that is absolutely unparalleled.
Magico Ultimate III
Retail Price: $700,000
Compression horn drivers have long been known to reproduce sound with exceptionally low distortion – at least high quality compression horns. And the Magico Ultimate III horns are as high quality as humanly possible, and work in conjunction with an extraordinarily advanced five-way active crossover and optimized built-in amplifiers.
Compression horns are also known to be exceptionally efficient, requiring almost no power to achieve very high volumes. So when you consider that this 8 foot tall, 2 ton pair of speakers has at its disposal 4,000 watts of amplifier power, you can just imagine how impactful they can be. But if you’ve listened to efficient speakers powered with insane amounts of juice, you know it’s not just maximum SPL that wows, but the stunning expressivity of micro-dynamic inflection and the effortless resolution of detail at any volume – especially, again, with what may be the best compression horns in the world.
Wisdom Audio Infinite Wisdom Grande
Retail Price: $850,000
Just like with the (slightly) less expensive Chronosonic above, these Infinite Wisdom Grande loudspeakers continue on with two grand Wilson Audio traditions – producing the finest, most musical (and most expensive) speakers in the world, and delving deeper into the importance of time and phase in accurate and realistic audio reproduction than perhaps any other company.
It turns out that there may be no other factor more important than temporal coherence in creating a wholly realistic picture – absolute phase accuracy is crucial not just to imaging, but to energy, detail, dynamics, expressiveness and so much more. And when Dave Wilson and his company make an ultimate statement like the Infinite Wisdom Grande, you can be sure that they produce what is quite probably the most realistic, engaging and beautiful sounding speakers in the world.
Moon Audio Opulence
With the Moon Audio Opulence we finally break that all-important million dollar mark. Well, maybe not so much important as impressive. And a bit scary. Like Moon Audio’s relatively affordable Signature Titan II (above), the Opulence is a strictly limited edition, with no more than 10 pairs to be produced. Of course, at over a million dollars, it’s possible that less than 10 pairs will be made…
And speaking of scary, this is the only speaker available with the somewhat disturbing, and disturbing sounding, Dark Star technology. Details about Dark Star are, well, nonexistent, but it is said to offer a different way of hearing music, that bypasses the ears and delivers sound directly to the listener’s brain. Normally a pretty verbose person, I have no idea how to respond to that…
Transmission Audio Ultimate
Retail Price: $2,000,000
With an astonishing 24 8” mid-woofers and 10 15” woofers per side, as well as two mid-tweeter ribbons and one supertweeter, the extraordinarily expensive Transmission Audio Ultimate need twelve 7 foot tall panels, and require about 40 feet of floor space, not to mention an enormous room to come to life.
Please understand that, while many sites claim this speaker costs 1 million dollars, they are actually 1 million a side, and so are easily the most expensive speakers available today that aren’t, well, made of solid gold. Of course, for that money you also get six perfectly optimized amplifiers, which deliver a total of 3,000 watts and can push the Ultimate to an ultimate SPL of 146 decibels – which is 6 decibels above the range where the American Audiology Association admonishes us to “use ear protection or avoid.”
Hart Audio D&W Aural Pleasure
Retail Price: $5,000,000
Ok, I did a quick bit of figuring in my mind – which is sure to yield the most accurate and reliable of results – and the Hart Audio D&W Aural Pleasure contains something like 445 pounds of solid 18 karat gold, and at today’s rates the gold value alone is something like 8.5 million dollars. So yeah, by all means, get David Hart on the phone right away and place your order, before he comes to his senses!
Or realize that the last person who took investment advice from me was, well, me, and my net worth is less than 445 pounds of solid concrete. Anyway, if you’re looking for a true value, the Aural Pleasure – which are easily the most expensive speakers in the world in the solid gold cabinet – are a much better value in the solid bronze version, which is being made in a production run of 99 pairs and is a mere 64,000 dollars a pair.
And if you want not the most expensive speaker in the world, but the best speaker in the world, you might do better looking at something like the Wilson Audio Chronosonic or Infinite Wisdom, both of which, at least in comparison to these big golden walnuts, also seem like absolute bargains. Still, 5 million dollars, solid gold, shaped like a walnut – totally worth it!
Bonus Section: The Most Expensive Speakers of the Past
While I was writing and researching this article, I kept thinking about some of the speakers released in the last 75 years or so, and especially the ones that were in their time considered not just amazingly expensive, but amazing in every way.
There are tons of speakers which could fit this description, but I had in mind a half dozen which were, I believe, the most expensive of their day, and also came to be known as the most important and influential designs, as well as universally acclaimed and beloved among the audiophile community.
So I thought it would be fun to close with a very brief look at each of these 6 ground-breaking speakers, including their original year of release, their original retail price and their adjusted price in today’s dollars. You will surely notice that none of them is even close to the levels of the 10 speakers above, although the Wilson Audio WAMM is the closest – no coincidence that Wilson has 2 entries as well on our list of today’s most expensive speakers!
Infinity Reference System (IRS)
Released In: 1980
Original Price: $20,000
Today’s Adjusted Price: $72,000
Introduced in 1980, the Infinity Reference made a huge impact on the high end audio market, both because of its staggeringly expensive price and its staggeringly accurate and beautiful sound – both, at the time, reaching dramatic new levels. By today’s standards, this is a moderately priced speaker, even after inflation-adjusting the price still more than 400,000 dollars below #12 on our list!
Magnepan Timpani 1U
Released In: 1973
Original Price: $995
Today’s Adjusted Price: $6,500
One of the most influential, and most overlooked and underappreciated, speakers in history, the phenomenally smooth, accurate and musical planar magnetic Magnepan Typmani set new standards in low distortion and open and unforced sound. The Tympani was enormously important, and infinitely impressive, but not especially expensive, although these days any Tympani speaker system can command pretty awesome prices – higher, even, than its original retail price as adjusted to today’s dollars.
Released In: 1957
Original Price: $1,830
Today’s Adjusted Price: $20,000
An extraordinarily costly speaker at the time, this enormous single piece stereo speaker system – 9 feet long and weighing 850 pounds – was just as extraordinary in appearance, and still today stands as a truly beautiful and impressive example of true mid-century modern art. Although by far the highest priced speaker of its time, when adjusted to today’s dollars the Paragon is really not very expensive – more than some of us would spend on a car, but less than 5 percent of the price of even the least expensive speaker on our list.
Wilson Audio WAMM
Released In: 1981
Original Price: $32,000
Today’s Adjusted Price: $105,000
About a year after the Infinity Reference, the audio world was shocked again by a speaker that, somehow, was actually more expensive – 12,000 dollars more a pair, to be precise. The WAMM, or Wilson Audio Modular Monitor, was the first product to reflect Dave Wilson’s obsession with temporal cohesion, and has laid the foundation for everything that followed from that remarkable company (including two of the astonishingly expensive speakers on our list – one, more than 40 years later, still called the WAMM). It itself is also, by any standard, still one of the finest sounding speakers in the world.
Altec Voice of the Theater
Released In: 1945
Original Price: $1,900
Today’s Adjusted Price: $32,000
While the Voice of the Theater speakers were ostensibly made for and marketed to deluxe movie theaters around the world, it was clear that Altec Lansing also worked the home audio market, and the VoT did indeed become a fantasy of many audiophiles, and a reality for very few – who had to have both wallets and listening rooms of remarkable dimensions. Charmingly, the speaker itself was a mindblowing (for its time) 1,900 dollars, and for 70 dollars more you could get “installation supervision.”
Released In: 1964
Original Price: $1,700
Today’s Adjusted Price: $16,000
Another incredibly influential speaker, the Klipschorn has been in continuous production for nearly 60 years now, and the newest iteration is essentially the same as the first. Known for its amazingly low distortion, dynamic power and efficiency, as well as for stunning bass and remarkable stereo imaging, the hand-finished Klipschorn was also considered to be a beautiful speaker to look at – well, at least husbands all thought so, even if wives generally disagreed. An amazing product that has few rivals in terms of pure excitement and musical energy, the Klipschorn is still today considered a truly great speaker system.