Aging technology versus inevitably aging ears...

This could get long; please pardon me in advance or skip it. I had originally meant this for the Digital Forum, but it grew and meandered to where I just cut and pasted here... I have a large house with many rooms and, to my wife's constant objection, a well-displayed system in most of them ranging in vintage from 1976 to 2010. Each is period correct in that the turntable, electronics, and speakers are approximately age-matched. I'm old-school, so my speakers are big and beautiful-- two channels only and no subwoofers needed. Over the past few days, I've had the house to myself and a chance to do some listening to my vinyl, my better FM tuners, and even my CDs, which I normally consider a convenience medium for background or entertaining. I have absolutely nothing against digital and will admit that good digital sounds sufficiently good that it could actually provide a primary source if my LP collection melted and analog broadcasting were terminated (perhaps that's somewhere in the health care bill?), although mediocre digital is at best rather fatiguing.

My classic electronics and loudspeakers have been on a program of refurb for the past several years just because I enjoy using them and do not wish to suffer progressive degradation in their sound and function. In fact, I was A/B/C-ing some of my early mid-fi CDPs and TOTL direct-drive turntables against modern ones on my high-resolution living-room rig and came to a shocking conclusion: Properly-functioning old gear does not sound bad at all. In fact, without naming names, some of my old MASH and bitstream players sounded good enough that I would not see any reason to upgrade them unless I had a digital-only rig. Again, I prefer vinyl for solo listening and have the CDPs primarily for socializing. Every five years or so, I match and build a newer system, but since I have lots of closet space and several of Billy Bags' wonderful racks, I just don't get rid of the old stuff.

Still awake? Up to now, I had been enjoying the advances in engineering provided by the upper end of mid- and lower end of hi-fi-- that sweet spot at the rational side of the 10/10 rule. I'm always prepared to get rid of all the stuff and build one dedicated system, but just never pulled that trigger. However, I'm now at the point where I'm not sure that further advances will provide me greater enjoyment in my second half-century. If the stuff that was good enough for me twenty years ago when I had to stretch to afford it sounds pretty darn good now, is it good enough? Yeah, right, only I can answer that for me, but I'm wondering if anybody else here has reached the point where he is listening and enjoying more than ever, but admits that the gear is probably good enough? Does anybody just plain get attached to it?
I greatly enjoyed reading your thread, and it is quite pertinent to me. My 63 years have pretty well ravaged my hearing, but not enough yet so that I can't enjoy my system, which is now finally at the point I always hoped it would be.

I have, within the last year or so, gone backwards in time re my speakers, having gone from current model Dynaudio's, to 35 year old Tannoy drivers, which I have enjoyed designing the enclosures, then having them built, and building custom outboard crossovers for them. I have never enjoyed audio as much as I do now, the involvement in building some of it, and the enjoyment of listening after a year or better working on making it sound as I'd hoped.
I love this hobby, you get back what you put into it, (well, eventually!) My hearing isn't great, but I will keep on listening, even if I have to use the Braille method. I don't think it matters much what you listen through, as long as you enjoy it.

I just bought new stuff. All new stuff. All midfi. i wanted it to last. The idea of buying cutting edge for one or two items just did not make sense to me anymore. i bought Bryston for the 20 year warranty. Figuring i HAVE maybe twenty years left?
The stuff made over the last 50 years has some very very nice sound. Sure a lot was junk, but a lot was really nice. I have some older things. A Rega P3 with the original Maggie unitrac arm and Dynavector Ruby 23 cart bought with it 25 years ago.. still sounds great.
Good luck!! I hope you enjoy the various setups for many years to come. Its fun!
What a great post, Morgenholz.

I don't seem to sell anything and even have a 20 year old bit of LP kit in a storage locker to resurrect when I get back to Oz.

I still have a bit of an upgrade bug, but it's under control, and if I had to stop now and stay with what I own until I die, I would be happy. Even my disc buying habits have slowed down with the demise of SACD, and I mainly buy old CDs (from Japan and West Germany) from the early production runs.

The answer is yes, the old stuff is good enough. The stuff from 30 years ago is too. But I didn't think so until only recently. Allow me to explain. Lately my system has been going backwards in time, aka retrograde. Please bear with me as I collect these thoughts.

The furthest up the SOTA chain I ever got was early/mid 90's Threshold and Theta separates with ProAc speakers. They're all gone now, traded to facillitate moving. It's doubtful I'll ever again assert myself to ascend those lofty peaks. In the last couple of months through lucky accidents I've stumbled upon some wonderful late 70's Sansui gear -- with head scratching results -- why do they sound so good, and how did I miss what happened way back when? I've got two theories:

1. there's a synergy to pairing the same maker's amp and speakers from the same time period; after all, the speakers are the missing links which complete the amp's circuits.

Or more likely,

2. something very special was happening in audio by the late 70's. This is recent news to me, so pardon me if I bore the already informed. Plenty of great, decently recorded music was produced during that decade. Its enjoyment was worth savoring. Makers like Kenwood, Pioneer and Sansui vigorously competed to overcome vinyl's inherent limitations in signal to noise, separation and dynamic range. Competent designers had to focus on stretching the limits of quietness and listenability. At the time there was no where else to take vinyl to make it sound better.

Fast forward to 2010 -- along comes the listener with a by comparison high rez, mid-fi CD player and what do you know, that late 70's stereo stuff, designed purposely to make vinyl more palatable, still sounds great with analog. In lucky addition, when set free of vinyl's limitations it performs miracles of overachievement on CD!

So good enough? I'm about as happy as I've ever been, I dare say moreso. I do feel foolish about all the things I once thought mattered. I'm happy to say I never lost money on any of the quality stuff I bought used. In that way I used it all for free. The new stuff is another matter, and to what degree I'm sad to recall. But in the end it's all good. I got to here and it's a good place. If a person can lay claim to admiring the system when its off and enjoying it when it's on, that's where I've come to. Good is certainly good enough to my aging ears, but on the good days it is spectacular.
I have built a system that will last for 20 yrs. No more buying. My last tranaction is the Dude pre amp. Done with it and now is time to enjoy the music for the next 100 yrs.
Wow-- I did not know what to expect with my cry for therapeutic sympathy, and I got just that. Community keeps us sane, indeed.

Rockvirgo, you nailed two things square-on: (1) Something very special WAS happening in the late seventies, aside from my transition from adolescence to college freshman. The world was still analogue, not only in its consumer technology but also in its social habits. My friends, male and female, gathered around a two-channel system and spun LP records. Nobody was texting or checking e-mail; people actually had attention spans. The next great used vinyl find, played over whomever's system was better set up, was occasion for communal celebration. None of us could afford the TOTL stuff, but we all drooled over it when buying our HK integrated amp or Sansui DC receiver or Baby Infinitys. Personally, I alternate two Kenwood systems that I would have bought back then if not surviving week-to-week: a KD650/KT8300/KA8300 system ca.1976 and a 1978-vintage KD750/KT7500/KA8100, each with a KX1030 deck, through JBL L166 Horizons or Snell Type E's, all rebuilt. Bedroom system is a Denon DP60L and Tandberg TR2025 running a quartet of JBL Aquarius IVs (one in each corner). (2) You are absoultely correct-- I enjoy listening to them but also admire them when they're off!

Metralla, your first name would not be Bultaco, would it? Talk about a beautiful piece of machinery... I've still got the upgrade bug, and fully support the wonderful people producing great products indirectly by buying year-old stuff from the inveterate upgraders, and have talked with several of the small company owners/engineers while maintaining and upgrading these. Since I tend to keep my stuff, I need to wait a year or two before purchase to make sure the gear gains wide acceptance to insure long-term support and parts.

Elizabeth, I've nearly done the same thing for the same reasons at numerous times, and I still have the Planar 3 even though I've got better Regas!

Dan, the speakers... I love my 35-pound turntables and my VU-meter-equipped gear and big volume knobs with stepped attenuators, but it's all about getting juice to the speakers. The more imposing and objectionable to my lovely wife, the better. I can't pass up an Ohm Walsh 4 within driving distance, and I'd love to retrofit 2000 drivers into some F cabinets. My HK 700 series and bridged NAD Monitor Series systems exist solely to take T60 and TD2001 suspension table signals and supply period-correct power to the Ohms or Ic Maggies. However, the lowest WAF scores go to the Spica Angelus(es?), which demand placement over decor-- She hates them so much that she has to show "those things" to all of our visitors, but has to admit that the midrange imaging with choral music is sublime. I am still blessed with very sensitive hearing, but I figure my midrange will be the last to go... and I can at least still feel the bass from the 15" Klipsches (Quicksilver gear), which are too heavy for her to move...
Morgenholz writes:
Metralla, your first name would not be Bultaco, would it? Talk about a beautiful piece of machinery

You have the reference correct.

I owned several of those from 1970 on, along with a few other Bullys, and just loved them. It was sad to see the Spanish factories fall away.

I believe many of use and myself avoided Japanese gear of the 70s. I remember TAS calling Sansui of that time Sansewer and this kept me from exploring early gear coming from that region.
04-06-10: Glory
I have built a system that will last for 20 yrs. No more buying. My last tranaction is the Dude pre amp. Done with it and now is time to enjoy the music for the next 100 yrs.
Glory (System | Threads | Answers)

Dear Morgenholtz, re-reading this thread reminded me that I used to drive those old 12" Tannoy's with a 45Wpc Kenwood integrated, with built-in phono stage (routine, back then), AR turntable, and Shure V-15 type IV cart. I recall being across the road from my place, about a quarter mile away, and heard Buddy Guy as clear as a bell (my friend was playing while I was cutting wood). Kind of amazing when I think back on it, just how good the old stuff could sound. Fond memories!

I'm value oriented. Real quality tends to last. Most of my (well maintained) gear is over 20 years old. Is the new stuff better? Some yes, some no. It really comes down to costs. Is the new better stuff worth the extra costs? Not very often, at least not for me. Too little improvement (and sometimes none at all, or even worse, even worse) for too much more money. I will admit that some of the new stuff, which really didn't exist (for all practical purposes), like digital room correction is very compelling. I just might bite.
This is a great post! I had two racks full of McIntosh gear, when (bored out of my mind) I listened to an old beat up Citation 16a amplifier. I soon sold the Mac gear and put together a period hi-fi around the Citation 17 preamp, 16A amp. I have never been happier and I NO longer spend weekends in my local hi-fi store straining to try and hear something better. I listen primarily to LP and open reel with the occasional CD. My plans are to NEVER upgrade and NEVER sell. All of my gear is of very high quality and should out last me.
This question is like a woman asking you to guess her age. No win.

It sounds to me like you are way too involved emotionally with your vintage gear to opt out of it. You are doomed. ;)