Am I Getting Soft Here?

I’ve just been loving my stereo lately, this despite the fact everything is far from bank-breakingly expensive and is, well, at least a few years old. Right now I’m streaming CD quality music from Idagio and the sound is just glorious. Timbres are lovely. Sure, I’m listening to a modest. perhaps a ten person Baroque chamber ensemble, but there’s a convincing sense of image, dynamics and space. I’m not in the first row of the venue but I’m far from the nosebleed section or hidden in a corner. Hoping I’m not cursing things with this post!

NOLA Boxer Speakers. Primaluna Integrated amp. Cambridge Audio streamer. Interconnects, etc., at a similar quality level. But yeah, I was able to build my listening room pretty much to audiophile precepts, and everything is painstakingly positioned.


Sounds to me like you’re doing it right. If you’re not loving what you’re doing, why bother?

But, I know where this comes from. Not sure it is really anything to do with audio or audiophiles either.

Having dinner with a friend one time, first time there, he is showing me around. Oh you have a stereo. So he tells me all about it, how Akai makes a really good receiver, speakers he auditioned before buying these Yamaha, and then seeing my interest plays me something. I sit back, relax, close my eyes, really enjoyable experience.

Some weeks later we have them over. Listening room door, eyes bug out. Darn near fell out when he looked behind the amp. This guy was Microsoft Director level, Porsche racer, total alpha and unaccustomed to being utterly outclassed. He listened but I am quite sure never enjoyed it.

Month later he has been to Stewart, bought basically everything I had only better. I had integrated, he had to get separates. Like that. Nice collection of components. Only made things worse. Now he was really vexed. How in the world did he spend 2X and still not feel satisfied?

The answer to me is obvious. First time he put the time in to go and listen and buy what HE liked. Would just about bet money he was happier then than now.

Don’t waste one second trying to please anyone else. Don’t give a hoot what anyone here thinks. Most of em never set foot in your house, let alone hear what you have. Even if they do, who cares? It’s your system.

This is not a zero sum game. Lotta guys act like it is. Act like if you think the world of yours it must mean theirs sucks. Messed up, but there it is. Don’t fall for it. Enjoy, and enjoy that you enjoy. That is all.


I thought this hobby was all about enjoying music. Your personal enjoyment and satisfaction in your kit no matter how little or much cash you spent. For some it is about the gear, reminds me of the arms race. I have listened to some awesome sounding systems that came in under $5K. 

I agree 100% with the salient point being expressed here. Listening to music should be fun, immersive and thoroughly emotionally involving. The experience is utterly subjective by default as it’s such an individualistic endeavor. The priority and goal has to be determining the type of sonic/music presentation that makes you most happy and content. In my opinion this mindset and approach leads to the best possible long term happy outcomes.

Recognize and identify what you like in terms of sound and then earnestly do your best to fulfill it.



Long Term Happy is why I’m into music and my simple system plays it. 😁

@edcyn It sounds like you've hit a really good equilibrium point. You've put time and money and intelligence into your setup and you're immersed in experience. That's how it should be.

That said, everyone knows that aesthetic appreciation is a stepwise process. First we learn to appreciate; then, upon further exposure and some helpful conversation, we learn what more we might discern and enjoy. Then, we try to step up to that next level, and we shift from critical listening back to immersion enjoyment.

In other words, there are at least two reasons people get dissatisfied.

Sometimes, they are just chasing what other people have. That's not good.

But other times they're trying to step up to the next level of aesthetic discrimination-and-then-immersion. That's how this is supposed to work. Perhaps you're doing this?


You do not need astronomically expensive equipment to achieve outstanding sound or really satisfying sound. +@Millercarbon. Sounds like you have synergy between your components and room and the sound meets is of a character that satisfy your values. Just enjoy… forget all about equipment.


A word of caution. If the upgrade bug bites at some time in the future. Proceed with caution. It can be easy to upgrade one component and improve the level of details, good, but throw off the tonal balance… while it may sound better… it might not be as satisfying any more. Then change something else, and else and end up far from where you started.

If the bug bites, I’m not saying you should never upgrade, but well, choose wisely… take your time.

If you love what you have, then that's not "soft"... it's very good news.

The softness would come if you give in to upgrade-itis when there is no need to.  

You're not getting soft edcyn. You're just being real. My whole system cost about $7500 in 1990. Though I recently had everything refurbished, I'm still enjoying it. It's mine, it was the best I could afford at the time, it sounds great to me and I'm used to it. The only thing I've actually changed is the interconnects. They were all original until recently. I spent about $300 for a bunch of Mogami's and it sounds as good as new, if not better.

But what about the not subtle, night and day, gobsmacked and profound differences a better power cord will make?

If you love it, you’ve succeeded as far as I’m concerned. 😎 Cost and sound quality isn’t necessarily directly correlated.

If mahgister could enjoy a $500 system, don't even question yourself about yours. 

There is so much money to performance correlation on this site it often makes me wonder about the true audiophile value of it :-(


I was thinking about this and realized it's all in my brain. My ears are not improving. What gets better is my brain's ability to process the quality and characteristics of the sound. My brain compares the sound I heard before and I am hearing now and it teaches me to appreciate the differences. What sounded perfect and whole  yesterday now has little and not so little flaws, delays, noise accidents and sound bruises that we have to figure out how to correct and enhance. It's annoying and fun. The bug....  

It is what you think about your sound that matters.

Nobody else.

I was told by one visitor earlier this year that my new speakers were nothing

compared to my old ones. Stupidly I returned the trial speakers.

Long story short. After 9 months of trying speakers from Spendor, ATC, Triangle,

KEF, Philharmonic, and ten others I realized I had the best speakers

in my home to begin with. 

One comment cost me $1,000 in buying/selling fiascos. 


Moral of the story is-KEEP WHAT YOU LIKE !!!!


I tried 8 speakers in 6 months. I finally took out an old pair from my garage from 20 years ago. It sounded as good as the best new pair that I kept. It was pure magic 

This phenomenon in gear always reminds of the first album is the best album experience. Years and years to create your perfect stereo and then the rushed follow up is less than stellar. Same with first albums. Trick is to always enjoy the art of it all.

I love this thread. Back to the roots. Bigger/ more expensive isn’t better, better is better.

@edcyn Well done!!


I was thinking about this and realized it's all in my brain. My ears are not improving. What gets better is my brain's ability to process the quality and characteristics of the sound. My brain compares the sound I heard before and I am hearing now and it teaches me to appreciate the differences.

Exactly. It's called learning and learning increases enjoyment! [FWIW, I like the word "mind" (the part of you with language, judgement, interpretation)  instead of brain (neurons, blood vessels, etc.) but that's a technicality.]


It is what you think about your sound that matters.

Nobody else.

Maybe that holds for you, but it was other people who helped me hear new things. If I was left to only myself, I'd still be listening to a far inferior system. They said things like,

"Listen for the 'soundstage' and see if you can tell the instruments' position on the stage."

Or they said,

"Listen to the difference between a clear, taut bass and a boomy/muddy one."

"Oh, now I get it," I said. "Thanks for helping me hear a difference I wasn't hearing before."

Turns out it was not just about what I heard. It was what other people could hear that I couldn't hear yet. They taught me to hear better. 

Maybe you think that every man is an island when it comes to the achievements of audiophile taste; in my experience, it takes a village.

Well it's sunday morning and after reading the postings on this thread I feel like I'm in audiophile church. Do I hear an amen?

As once was said in song. “Love the one your with” Enjoy, that’s what it’s all about!

OP, not sure if you were even asking a question that requires a response.  Sounds like you've reached a point of satisfying equilibrium.  Just enjoy it as long as you can, explore new music, share it with friends.

Miller Carbon you certainly are knowledgeable and know what you are talking about.  I will have to go to a local dealer and listen to a tube amp.  Wish was able to spend the money this group spends.  My problem is I have a gate keeper who keeps me in check.  I must say if I spent the money to upgrade I would feel guilty of being self centered and selfish.

There’s something partibularly satisfying about making the "right" decisions that have stood the test of time. Each time we purchase something new, we also have to face the reality that it could have been a poor decision. Over time those decisions are vailidated and our anxiety level decrease incrementally to the point where, in the OPs case, we are totally relaxed with the decision(s).

After retirement, my service tech of 25 years and I spend one day a week trying to prevent disfunctional old audio gear from going into the dumpster. The owners of the gear have very common attributes -- a strong emotional attachment to (generally, mid-fi) gear, and a satisfaction level that’s off the charts. I’m not going to be the guy that goes around bursting bubbles, and "educate" them that their fretwood grille Pioneer speakers are covered up, or the musicality of their Realistic receiver is at 2.7 on the 10 scale. Or, the Sony CD changer’s built-in DAC is generations behind in technology, or their amp's attached power cord is inadequate for a 2-sliced toaster -- much less a serious piece of audio gear, or their idle-wheeled, rim drive Garrard is antiquated. Seeing these guys and gals tear up when lights come back on and music starts playing through their prized possessions makes my day as well.

Thanks for the post. As much as I like the smell of burning hot rebuttals in the morning (they pair well with coffee), this was refreshing.

All the best,

An old audio dude in Missouri.

@larry5729 I think the group is very diverse. I have a gate keeper too and the only way I can upgrade is if I sell my old gear. I regularly have to defend myself like "I sold this for $600, please don’t nag me for buying a used turntable for $610".

I still remember talking to a sales guy in the city’s top hifi store on Boylston Street back in Boston, and that I asked:
"who buys 4000 dollar speakers?"
He said: "You".
I replied: "I just bought 400 dollar speakers and it’s the most money I spent on stereo, or more than all the money I spent, combined.
"Not today. You will buy this in 20 years for sure, you will keep upgrading"

That was 25 years ago. and he was right about the upgrades. I took a break from audio until my kids grew up, and now I am back to upgrading and tweaking again.
I am far from buying $4000 speakers (at today’s prices probably $8000) but accomplishing a lot with used gear.
There are high spenders who sell their equipment at steep discounts when they upgrade that lets my strict-budget type experience the next step up in sound quality

...everyone’s playing nice on a beautiful Sunday (at least, here..*S*), nice change from the sturm und drang...;)

I enjoy the odd pile of mine, incremental adds ’n subtracts as the muse and situational fate occurs. Since all of this effects 5 separate ’systems’ of varied capabilities in different situations, the meager budget allows for little but can improve one or the other a lot....

All boats rise on the average. *G* Each has it’s strengths and weakness’, but I push the awesome level up on each in it’s turn.

Picked up a raw 15" AR woofer @ Habitat the other weekend, likely dumped by a pushed-in dust cap....we’ll see where it can play within a swarm project pending.

....can’t resist the orphans....*L*

Will a new power cord help me? Perhaps....if I get a half-dozen of them....

Would rather upgrade all the ICs’, which would likely toast a K$ to do so.
So, it can wait. *L*

Think I’ll buy a Lotto tix, 1+B$ in my hands would be terrifying even to me. *L* And I’m overdue for being lightning struck, although a real one is more likely. ;)

A pleasant remains of the day to all, J

Enjoy the local time warp....

I can easily understand your enjoyment of present system. I used  a variety of Alon speakers for well over ten years. Also owned PrimaLuna amp rather recently, Alon/Nola and PL all very nice equipment, good for you!

Nothing soft about achieving one’s goals.   Especially when done cost effectively. Well done!   Just sit back now and smell the roses. 

In my experience, there's a very loose relationship between SQ and $ spent.  Recently listened to the system of a member of the local audio club.

Poor guy spent probably $500k on his system and I have hugely better SQ in my sub-$50k system.  I would never trade with him.

Room setup and treatment and paying attention to the little details - the weakest link in the chain, synergy among components - can make very modest systems sound glorious.

You know you're there when when the music is so emotionally involving you have to force yourself to stop listening.


i was going to edit my comment and add: I don’t care how much my system is worth, it’s not about the money. Understanding what improves the sound have less to do with big bucks investments and more with knowledge 

"You know you're there when when the music is so emotionally involving you have to force yourself to stop listening"

it's good to have quotes like this for quantifying things we can't measure. Sometimes I listen to albums so many times (and I can't stop) I wonder if the wear will be noticeable.

So many people sound like my experience.   Sold everything raised my kids. Retired, started over.  I'm not rich.  I don't have audio stores, a society, or any audiophiles around.

So I bought speakers and had some equipment.  And I am such a wise man, I sold all my albums YEARS ago.

So I came here.  Sorted through the fights, good and bad advise.  Just a couple weeks ago I added a couple "snake oil" tweaks.  I finally realize what everybody means.  The music sounds full, rich and involving. I get goosebumps.  I  keep saying I'm done.  


Yep, I keep saying I am done as well. Then I realize I hadn’t optimized this power cord or Ethernet thing or venue adjustment, and then, wow… another notable improvement. All being additive… it is amazing at the amount of improvements I have gotten for so little money (a good thing after buying my components a couple years ago).

On the other hand this is what I have done after every upgrade cycle over the decades with the same result. But each time I do it I am surprised at the magnitude of the improvement.

HaHa!  See how long it lasted.  I have a proper rack coming. The other one just sat on the floor so this should help.  It is a Pangea Vulcan they were on sale for $169.  I have a bunch of Herbie's  stuff to put under components.  Is it advised to put Herbie's on each corner of the shelves as well? 

So much of the nature of this hobby is not really based on the enjoyment of music but on the tiny increment of SQ we can get with the changing of equipment.

Sometimes changes result in much larger increments of SQ, my recent streamer upgrade has turned out to be one these. I only have one adjective to describe this change, and that is revelatory. This is the level of sq I've been desiring since hearing multi $100K vinyl setups in carefully controlled environments. Analytical listening no longer a concern, my conscious state goes into bliss mode without any effort, simply luxuriate into the music. So the question remains, how long will this state last, is this a permanent status or will I return to analytical states over time? Sound such that it brings a tear to the eye at present, will this last over time? Is there an end to this game, or does it go on to who knows when?


That happened to me as well.

After my last upgrade I didn’t touch anything for nearly a year I was so entranced with my system… even though I knew little was optimized. Then finally getting curious I did one little thing and the result was so important, it motivated me to do another… and another. After each I just drop back into the music as my system is even more seductive and just enjoy the music for another month.


When I was much younger I was constantly switched to the “analytical mode”… and spent way to much time there… work kept me away from my system so the small amount of time with it was spent in the analytical mode. I don’t do that anymore… not even after tweaks… if I don’t enjoy the music more, I undo the tweak.

This sentence from MC stood out:

“Some weeks later we have them over. Listening room door, eyes bug out.”

It can be argued that upgrading equipment isn’t always for pure SQ improvement. His eyes bugged out not his ears. There’s a reason equipment is designed to look great. Hand rubbed wood, polished stainless, glasswork, etc.  Many can simply ignore the visual aspect, but many cannot. Add to it…it’s fun to get a new toy and spend days and weeks tweaking. 

The upgrade bug bites for many reasons. 

@ghdprentice I've never been here prior, this over period of thirty years of serious system building. I'm like you in that I've had various lengths of time where I thought system just right, those didn't last more than a few months and never did the word revelatory come to me. We'll see if this is indeed the end of upgrades, the long run will tell.


However it turns out, it is small incremental improvements over the long run that  got me here. Based on my observations, it appears vast majority build satisfying systems in like manner.


I  ran into individual  some years ago that had sudden urge to spend well over $100K on system. Based on equipment purchased it appeared he based those purchases on Stereophile equipment ratings. Individual wanted me to come over and give my endorsement for his system, knowing I was long time audiophile. I ended up not going, wasn't really interested in hearing high value system put together with no thought or knowledge of putting together sympathetic equipment in a cohesive manner. I believe its the small incremental improvements one makes that leads to best sound quality, and one needn't spend multiples of $100k to get there.

This is an odd hobby because price points are all over the place. When I go to the supermarket, I don’t see a half gallon of ice cream for $12.00 and then another one for $86.00. But look at tone arms for example. I have a lot of money in my stereo but the money isn’t evenly distributed. Some things that have made the most satisfying improvements were tweaks ranging from $800.00 to $175.00. A while back I helped a friend put together a Rega system with Monitor Audio speakers and it sounds great and he didn’t have to break the bank. The audio business just isn’t black and white. So I wouldn’t get caught up in what ‘could be’ unless you hope to carry out a vision. I believe that you’ll eventually want to upgrade or tweak something but don’t rob yourself of the present.



dude, really? not that good?


 in best umbshitday voice " cmon, man"


 that's a great system, unless that's what you wanted to hear to reinforce your audio decisions??


that's a great system, we go with what we can afford, and no matter the cost, "its all ours" 

people who like bright speakers, would not like my stereo, do we give a sack, what others think..??  nope not me. 



  same here, most my somewhat higher dollar stuff is in amps, pre, cd, some semi above average Audioquest cables. some Belden ones which did drown out the radio tower 1 mile from my home.

@arcticdeth my highest priced piece is my amp, which is technically an integrated but with separate power supplies. Then my electrostatic speakers, then DAC, then phono amp. And while it seems illogical to put a stereo together this way, I have exactly what I had envisioned but it took some work. If I were consulted on to put another high dollar stereo together, I'd probably need about two or three months to figure things out. Save money in one place but invest it in another.

Enjoying another truly wonderful listen right now via Idagio. A 1966 recording of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (the Marriage of Figaro). Conducted by Otmar Suitner. Sung in German. Everybody is having a smashingly good time as they prowl a remarkably 3D soundstage, plotting, scheming and wooing. Hey, is someone knocking at my front door? No, it's just  a character in the opera trying to get in on the fun.

@edcyn I would like to hear more about the Nola Boxer speakers. I just bought some used S3s and will get them in a few days. Amps that work, cable recommendations, placement issues. Glad to hear that you are in audio nirvana and I'm excited about getting these speakers. 


Thanks so much for mentioning the Mozart recording. A little amusing hearing it in German, but delightful and wonderfully performed and recorded. 
The opera is, of course, one of Western civilization’s greatest achievements.