Cool post and it sounds like your on the right path but IMO there are inexpensive speakers like the Dali Zensors or Elacs that will far outperform the vintage speakers...JMO FWiW..
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Once I found out that I didn’t have a Hifi system (because I couldn’t tell the difference between an MP3 stream and a 16-bit FLAC), I’ve been seeking better audio quality. It started with better headphones, then eventually getting an Amp/DAC, then getting even nicer headphones, and a dedicated tube amp, and dedicated NOS DAC.
+1 on your post. Headphone systems are a wonderful entry point into the world of 'HiFi'. I wish I had started with a good headphone system. Once I did (similar to your story, but for other reasons), it allowed me to become more and easily aware of changes and sound quality differentials based on the cabling, amplification, headphones, music files used, etc. Taking the room out of the equation is helpful, as was having a simpler chain, as was the ease of swaps.
I say your start to the hobby is terrific and you are well on your way! As you move to speakers and a 2ch (non-headphone) system don’t get caught up and overthink your choices. In other words, make mistakes!
Consider your "90’s era pair of HiFi Japanese speakers" a Teacher. Learn and apply what you learn...Enjoy the Journey!
Thanks for posting that, Samosa. I enjoyed reading it. Something that has occurred to me repeatedly in reading various related posts (also goes along with the admonition by @david_ten to "Enjoy the Journey" - there is much to be said for starting out modest, not getting it "all at once", and progressing gradually to better and better gear. I think the process enables one to better understand and appreciate what the better gear brings sonically...what its benefits are. Having a high end system simply handed to one or getting a windfall and splurging on some end-game system eliminates the education process and would lessen the appreciation for what one has...or so I think. Anyway, thanks again for posting. BTW - You can find some truly wonderful speakers for a whole lot less than $10K! so don't get discouraged about that!
"Kids generally can’t afford extensive collections of music unless their parents were rolling in the $$$".
This is called "normal". I think a lot of the nonsense happening today is from the attitude "it exists so I should own it".
We used to listen to top 40 radio, which played all kinds of music. When I heard something I liked, I would buy it (if I could). I would also listen to Classical music stations and try to educate myself to that scene. It all takes time.
Lastly, BE CAREFUL with those damn earbuds/headphones. Your ears are young and fresh and can't get enough of some music (I've been there). You can't imagine the heartbreak of hearing loss until it happens and if/when it happens there ain't nothing you can do about it -seriously.
Heed the warning or get ready to be called the "What?" generation.
Thanks for your post - anyone selling or manufacturing audio equipment should use your points as critical information in understanding the current marketplace.
For example, some things that doesn't happen so much anymore are scenarios where you might have had a friend with a killer system or wandered into a retail store that sold killer systems that would give you something to lust after as your income rose. Buying equipment sight unseen (or unheard) online just isn't the same vs having experienced it directly.