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High-end audio is a class of consumer home audio equipment marketed to audio enthusiasts on the basis of high price or quality, and esoteric or novel sound reproduction technologies. High-end audio can refer simply to the price, to the build quality of the components, or to the subjective or objective quality of sound reproduction. The high-end audio movement started in 1962 with the launch of J. Gordon Holt's Stereophile magazine, which departed from advertising-driven commercial publications like Stereo Review and High Fidelity and instead promoted a philosophy of reviewing and comparing audio components solely on the basis of sound quality.
Originally the term "Hi-Fi" meant high fidelity sound, excellent and organic audio. In 1960s, it meant the same as high-end today. Later, due the goal of achieving better sales, Japanese audio manufacturers started production of cheaper audio equipment with hi-fi labeling, which offered inferior sonic quality when compared to earlier models. As this trend continued, a new term was needed to identify equipment of the original high quality. Later, the high-end term has also suffered some loss of value. Very expensive units are now sometimes referred to as "ultra high-end."
Classification and strict borderline between hi-fi and high-end is difficult and may sometimes not be necessary. The border between the terms is vague and poorly defined.
High-end audio equipment can be extremely expensive. It is sometimes referred to as cost-no-object equipment. Audiophile equipment can run the gamut from budget to high-end in terms of price range. 
The human sense of hearing is subjective and difficult to define because of the way that electrical signals from the ear are interpreted by the brain. Psychoacoustics is a division of acoustics that studies this field.
Sometimes a big part of high-end is based on pure psychology. When a person believes enough differences in audio are present, he/she also hears them, when in reality those do not exist. This feeling of pleasure might come from fact that owner of the equipment knows that he owns top of the notch (and good looking) high-end equipment. The human mind works this way. Also, often very expensive equipment (or accessories related to sound enhancement) and different explanations that appeal to people pursuing high quality audio, can result in the danger of paying for nothing and becoming victim of a fraud. A high-endist can sacrifice a large amount of money to small detail in the chain of hi-fi equipment, to achieve that peace of mind from knowing that the equipment is perfect. Also, the danger is that the high-endist is looking for sound that pleases him/her, which may or may not be natural, original sound (Hi-Fi= loyalty for originality).
Measurements can be deceiving; high or low figures of certain technical characteristics do not necessarily offer a good representation of how the equipment sounds to each person. For example some valve (vacuum tube) amplifiers produce greater amounts of total harmonic distortion, but this type of distortion (2nd harmonic) is not as disturbing to the ear as the higher order distortions produced by poorly designed transistor equipment.
Items often questioned are accessories such as cables utilizing exotic materials and construction geometries, cable stands for lifting them off the floor (as a way to control mechanically-induced vibrations), connectors, sprays and other tweaks.
See also 
- Audio quality measurement
- Broadcast quality
- European triode festival
- High-end audio cables
- High fidelity
- Professional audio
- Studio monitors
- Branch, John D. (2007-05-23). "Postmodern Consumption and the High-Fidelity Audio Microculture". In Russell Belk, Russell Belk Jr., John Sherry (eds.). Consumer Culture Theory, Volume 11 (Research in Consumer Behavior) (1 ed.). JAI Press. pp. 79–99. ISBN 0-7623-1446-X.
- Perlman, M. (2004). "Golden ears and meter readers: The contest for epistemic authority in Audiophilia". Social Studies of Science 34 (5): 783. doi:10.1177/0306312704047613.
- "Finnish hi-fi and high-end guide: terminology" (in Finnish).
- SOUND; How About a Pair of Loudspeakers Priced at $65,000?, New York Times, 1987
- "Finnish hi-fi and high-end guide: drawbacks of high-end" (in Finnish).
- The Truth About High End, As We See It, by J. Gordon Holt, October, 1982