Are high end audio speakers lots better than they were 5 , 10 or 20 years ago?
You first have to find agreement in the term “better.”
We’ve done the super-duper speaker wire topic to death, and some folks are absolutely insistent that $30/ft. “oxygen-free” wire just blows away everything else.
I think the law of diminishing marginal returns applies here. My thinking is: when you get into the high fours- (or five-) figure stratosphere, you find need to be re-thinking your music selection.
Overall, I do not believe speakers have significantly improved over the last 20 years. But there has been one area that has seen very significant improvement: small, bookcase-sized speakers. Today’s small speakers are much better than the small speakers offered 20 years.
I think the Klipsch bookshelf and subwoofers are excellent. I don’t remember my fathers stuff sounding that good when I was a kid. Then again, I was a kid, and he could’ve had some el-cheapos. But the price? OMG!
Actually, I think computer technology and advanced manufacturing have improved speakers markedly in the last ten or fifteen years. I can buy a pair of Paradigm Studio 40’s now for a little over $1000, and twenty years ago you couldn’t have found a speaker for $5,000 that would sound as good. And in constant dollars the difference is even greater.