Hi Classic: Tom really got to you with that dammed Dynaco Stereo 70 (you know, the one that "blows" every modern amp away) didn't he? I checked back and he has been working that amp so hard that he has probably needed to change the tubes twenty times in the past five months. In regard to your question, I believe that there is a larger selection of equipment that sounds vastly different from each other that is available today. And because of this increased variety of flavors there "is" more to talk about today than their was thirty years ago. In addition the talk is more prevalent because of the medium that we are communicating on right this moment. The "talk" has always been around though. I remember "the talk" from as early as 1950 when I was five years old. The "talk" did not sound new then either, there was just less to talk about at that time. Also "sound quality" has always been based upon personal taste once the equipment achieves a minimum level of sound reproduction, which could be as low as the level achieved by a KLH Model Twenty-One table radio playing a strong signal from a jazz station to some (IMO). Equipment that is deemed to be guilty of sub level performance is judged to be so by generally accepted levels of performance that are also based on personal opinion, an opinion that more people share than do not. I feel that this "blowing away" thing is really of a highly personal nature and should probably be kept that way, especially if you are the only sane person that feels the same way about that product. I have to admit that thirty years ago I did get blown away on various occasion, but I think that it had to do more with my level of maturity than the level of performance. That is all.
Couldn't agree with you more Classic. The law of diminishing returns is at work in a huge way with "high end" audio. In my opinion, one can put together a pretty decent system without blowing your total bank account (or line of credit or whatever). I live with pretty modest equipment and tend not to buy new equipment very often (my speakers, turntable, and amp are all 10 years old) but have given in to purchasing new interconnects and power cord ($150 for used Silver Audio 6.0's and $200 for a used Cardas Golden power cord)in the past year. They were definitely worth buying at those prices. But at what price does this hobby begin to stop making sense? I have about $4000 Cnd. invested in my system and figure it sounds pretty good. I've also listened to a lot of very expensive gear, including the CD 12 and $100,000+ systems. The last really nice system I listened to at the dealer's was about $36K (Cnd) retail, B&W 801's, Sim Audio Moon pre and amp & Sim CD player, all hooked up with exotic wire. Firstly, I don't have a room that would do this system justice. Secondly, if I did, I still wouldn't buy it (unless I had money to absolutely burn!) because, as you say, there's no way it's 10 times better than what I've got in terms of me enjoying the music. The megabuck systems, in my estimation, give you two things: a little bit more information retrieval (tailored to the type of sound you want) and a sense of scale that can't be achieved with a less expensive system. Unless you listen to full scale orchestral works (I don't) or stadium rock at stadium rock levels (I don't) it's really questionable as to whether these megabuck systems offer much more enjoyment. And currently, you have what I call "the technology factor" at work: how often are we, as audiophiles, going to have to upgrade our gear? Right now, do you buy SACD, wait for DVD Audio, go to upsampling, or what, and at what cost? There's a lot of mumbo jumbo out there right now. Just as an aside to my ramble here, I noticed in interest in another thread here (Best CD player under $1000) that the Arcam Alpha 8SE is listed by a couple of people. I had one and thought it was excellent. I ended up selling it because my RCA 5223P DVD player (which I had for 8 months before seriously comparing sound because of my audiophile snobbery and belief that my "high end" Arcam would smoke the RCA) sounds better. You can buy the RCA (last years model) on line for $174!
Classic: You are still an audiophile, and you still enjoy music, so be happy, and don't worry that everyone sees everything exactly the same way as you. They never will, I learned that in the first week that I got acquainted with the "highend". In most cases (and also in my own experience), it is indeed the nature of an audiophile to unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) see a contrary point of view to the one that someone else sees/hears. This could just simply be because of the emotion that comes with the passion of liking music (as a good friend has told me), and the equipment that brings it. It could be that we get into a mindset that accompanies the joy while listening, and whether we consciously put it into words, or not, THE VERY MINUTE someone else voices sentiments that seem opposed (or even mutually exclusive) to our own ideas/experiences/feelings, we let ourselves get bent out of shape about it. Not all of us are this way, but in my own experience, most of us are. It's like several salesmen have told me over the years "everybody has their favorite (system)". MY ANSWER TO THE QUESTION, "WHY CAN'T AUDIOPHILES AGREE", IS: Because they don't have to agree............................Listen, and be happy. Don't try to convince someone else that they didn't hear something a certain way (assuming they have actually heard it), and perhaps they'll show you the same courtesy. It is definitely a fool's errand, to attempt to convince someone that they didn't hear what they say they heard, when they really feel strongly about it. Perhaps this has happened to you too often lately, and you are letting it get to you. Don't, and as the 11th comandment says, "it's about the music"....(I love to rub that in somebody's face when they get uptight about audio, because it's been done to me like a billion times over!!).
classicaudio: i've been in this hobby since the 70's, too. (actually, the late 60's, if the truth be told.) the 1st system i remember "blowing me away" was powered with a levinson (the man, not the company) amp, using a stax pre and b&w speaks. i lusted after this setup but couldn't afford it at that point. so, i continued to listen to my circa 1970 "stereo," that was much like your advent setup. eventually, around 1982, i earned enough to buy into what was then the highend. my 1st "highend" system set me back about $7,000. i've constantly traded up, trying and buying numerous speakers, electronics and frontends. now, some 2 decades on, i own a system that retails for well over $70,000. is my current 10 times better than the one i bought in '82? that may be impossible to answer. let me give you some analogies. in 1968, my wife & i (still married, BTW, after 34 years) bought our first new car. it was a 1968 vw beetle that cost us $1700. in february of this year, our older son bought his first new car. ironically but truthfully, it was a 1999 vw beetle (turbo). it set him back $17,000, before taxes and tags. is our son's beetle worth 10x more than our '68 model? i don't really know. it is, however, better built, faster & corners damn near as well as my '99 bmw 328is. most importantly, the new beetle is infinitely safer than the '68; it has airbags, great bumpers, a front engine & is otherwise much more robust. i certainly wouldn't have paid $17,000 for our son's car in 1968. who would have done so? my dad sold cadillacs in the last years of his too-short life. in 1963, the year he died, the most expensive car in the highend gm line cost around $6,000. it was the eldorado biarritz, as i recall. now, you can truck on down to your cadillac dealer and buy any number of models with msrp's of >$60,000. are these 10x better than that 2 1/2 ton beauty built in '63 with a stainless steel top and huge v8? i don't know how you'd answer this query but i can tell you there's no american-made car i'd spend that much to purchase. so, back to audio. tho i just celebrated my 57th year on earth, i still listen to as much new stuff as often as i can. and sometimes, tho infrequently, i still get blown away. it happened again this past weekend, when i listened to pair of the same speakers i own (avalon eidolons) being fed by the newest accuphase frontend and huge monoblocs, connected with the top-of-the-top wire from tarra. (FWIW, i have the last generation accuphase frontend, digital pre and a rowland 8ti amp, all connected with cardas neutral ref.). how much would it cost me to move up from my current stuff to the "next level" or beyond the next level (which would include a boulder optically connected pre)? somewhere between $20-40 thousand retail (counting trades or sales of present electronics). is it worth it? that's a complicated question that is at the heart of your thread. of course it's not worth it if i can't afford it; but that's something i need to recognize and not whine about , as some, including those on this thread seem unable to do. how much is too much? again, a complicated question with a multiplicity of "correct" answers. if the majority of your upgrade $$ is going towards magical devices that realign your household electrons by plugging a clock into an empty outlet socket, or clarify your room acoustics with devices that resemble checker-sized discs on long dowels, then you deserve what you get, no matter the cost and no matter how your budget is affected. if, on the other hand, you are moving up the ladder of clarity, imaging or grit-free power with ultra well-built electronics, then your money may be well spent. i've come to the realization in the last few years that the scale one must apply to perceived improvements in sound quality is equivalent to the scale used to measure the differences in sound levels. both, that is, are logarithmic rather than geometric. the loader/better you get, the greater the level of output/$$ it takes to perceive a difference. this may not be "fair" or "just" but it is what it is. at some point your ears start to bleed when they direct the sound levels required to perceive a difference between a jet engine on afterburn 100 yards from your head and the same engine moving ever closer to where you stand. the same is at least roughly true when it comes to highend audio, tho your billfold may secrete its essence instead of your ears. what makes all this tougher is what's already been pointed out: there are more purveyors out there than ever before. sure, there are still tailors out there who will sell the clothes made of invisible threads to those vain enough to wear them. trouble is, there are more emperors than ever before. good times for tailors. bad times for the kings, princes, dukes and other assorted royals with more money than brains. ah, but thanks be to god, we're just observers of this long parade.
Hi,guys. (and hi,Carl) HiFi is different things to different people.Just the drum set from a rock group,or a classical orchestra wouldn't fit in my living room.I don't change amps,or speakers every year.So when I do change them;It's like, maybe how the general population feels,when they get a new car.My car is 14 years old,and runs fine.But when I do change a big piece/for big bucks I thank God that there IS a big difference. Always has been this way for me. Don't rain on my parade/I'm saving up for NEW wiper blades. Or;maybe I got the wrong impression,and you guys are NOT jaded. Or, maybe I have an obsessive behavior disorder. Maybe I can check into a halfway house where they only have Boze stuff,and effect a cure.
Cornfed boy you can write!
My first day on this site and this group of postings is the first I read through and it makes me really happy that I have found this site! Thank you all for your comments. Basically I agree. (my favorite item was the Tice clock... as the premier 'new clothes' item ever created.)
Today, nearly every piece of "serious" audio equipment sounds good. In the 70s this wasn't the case, hence truly good sounding stuff really stood out. As high end equipment has evolved the differences in sound quality are narrowing, but the importance of these small differences are taking on greater importance. In a completely unrelated field, motorcycles in the 70s were uniformly not very good (unreliable, poorly suspended, evil handling etc). Today, you cannot find a bad motorcycle. Yet, there are more different brands and models available today than back in the day. Progress and diversity -- what a wonderful world. But the bikes are targeted toward increasingly narrow niches (race replicas, touring, cruisers, sport-touring, V-Twins...). Regarding audio, we live in a world of excellence and as long as we don't take it too seriously, it's very enjoyable. BTW, I ride a ZRX1100, a homage to an early 80s race replica.
Good post. I won't bore you with an undending story about how I got started in audiophila and finally saw the light. Suffice it to say that I also find most of today's self styled "audiophiles" to be equipment-philes who don't really care for music. Case in point, the unbelieveable frenzy over the terrible performance but great recording by Patricia Barber, "Cafe Blue" which has been heralded as an audiophile "war horse". Nobody who understands and enjoys music would ever say something like that (sorry Patricia, I have nothing against you personally). A true audiophile enjoys live music as often as possible, and also, as you point out, enjoys listening at home. I agree they are two different things. Spending most of your home listening time trying to tell the difference between two power cords is insane ! People should enjoy the music and relax, and worry less about the "sonic signatures" of components, which are much less important than most audiophiles think. Besides, blind testing proves that most people find it hard to tell such differences. I also believe the such differences do however exist, but with reasonably good gear they are very, very slight. More importantly, such nuances are not worth spending time on. Your own mood and other ambientce factors will affect each listening session more than differences between reasonably well designed components. Still, I do believe in spending what I consider to be big bucks to get a better and bigger sound than what the hi-fi brands deliver.But only because the absolute goal is musical enjoyment. Ideas such as these have made me the pariah at another, totalitarian, audio forum, which is populated and controlled by certain dealers and manufacturers. They obviously don't like people who believe that the differences between components are smaller than most audiophiles think, and that therefore constant swapping of equipment and continuos tweaking take too much time from what should be the enjoyment of music. Happy listening.
Classicaudio You ARE an audiophile. I have myself been denying it for years until recently, the last 3 years or so. I am, like many here, on the relentless path of upgrading to reach sonic nirvana, real music. Ya know what? It doesnt exist in the reproduced audio experience. And ya know what else? It always comes into focus when I go hear real music. Just went to hear Phillys finest the other day (Pictures at an Exibition WOW) and it happened again! What I really love about real music is that you never really think about how it sounds, you are just swept away by the music. Tears of joy? Only a great live performance does it for me. To me reproduced audio is as you say, a different experience. Unlike you I dont enjoy recorded as much as live. I consider myself different than many of the audiophiles I see post here in that I care less about the gear for its own sake. It is just a means to an end. If it could disappear I would welcome it. Those wires and my wifes constant nagging about the unsightlyness of it all takes its toll. I am however very much interested in the engineering and how the components work together. My goal is a fantasy world of real music in my home, a fantasy that doesnt exist but in my hope that in the future it will. IMO things really havent improved too much in the past 15 or so years since I first became aware of the high-end. Oh there are better cartridges, better turntables, cheaper, better sounding digital front ends, improved speaker technology. And all this talk about cables. I say yes they make a difference to a point but beyond that if a notable improvement isnt observed within a reasonable audition period, what is the point? I remember a few years back at an audio show seeing a pair of 8 speakers in a beautiful dovetailed rosewood case; cost 15K!!! Talk about conspicious consumption. Indeed what does the King spend his money on these days? The peasants are catching up! As I have learned, different as often as not does not equate to better. Better can only be determined through careful repeated auditioning. And finally electronics. Well I like tube electronics. Is it better? Well to me it is and that is all that matters. To others it isnt and that is fine. The biggest improvement in electronics have probably been in solid state, at least to my ears. My vintage tube gear sounds excellent right now. Until I hear something that REALLY gets me closer to real it will stay. So far I havent and if I do, will I be willing to pay the price for the improvement? That remains to be seen. If there are improvements they are miniscule and offer little to the metamorphosis of recorded music to live. That technology hasnt been developed yet. Better transducers and recording technologies and maybe the most important and overlooked item of all, room acoustics. Maybe a big Genesis 200 system in a BIG room (it IS that good) will get you close to hearing an orchestra in the listening room but how practical is that for those with less than the resources required to own such a grand system? Hell you could buy season tickets to your favorite venue for the rest of your life for that much dough. Then again you could have both if you could afford either. Over the past few years in my relentless quest I have come to value high end audio and gear for what it is and has become more of to me; a hobby that introduces well reproduced audio in my home and keeps the hope alive. The hope that someday the tears of joy experienced through the live music experience will come into my home. So sad, so sad.
Words that ring true! Words that perhaps can only come from one who has acquired much seasoning. I can say this because I, many years ago, evolved my approach to things "audio" in a similar way. Bear in mind that "audiophile" can, quite correctly, suggest a priority love or appreciation of the hardware itself rather than its' ostensible "raison d'etre", the reproduction of sound and most particularly music itself. My particular "seasoning" includes many years as a professional musician and also audio sales. However, listening is the most important component relative to this subject and by listening I mean critical listening. The love of music is the motivating force behind my some 40 years of so-called "audiophilia". I do, however, eschew the use of this term for describing myself because I've observed numberless instances of what I've come to refer to as audio minutiae obsession. And on a few ocassions I,ve succumb to this distraction myself, listening repeatedly to the smallest sonic detail in order "find" that particular distinction which will reveal to me the perfect combination of equipment, setup, positioning, and acoustical environment....only to return days, hours, and even minutes later to find my impressions to be different than remembered and to once again begin the insanity of the obsessive search. But alas, what Beethoven quartet or Bach sonata or Mozart symphony or complete set by Parker, Coltrane or Evans have I heard to completion during my bout with that confounded obsession? When to stop and begin really listening though? I now try to retain a realistic perspective. Although I confess to having many and varied components which delight me, but much less obsessively. To approach audio truth requires a secure reality reference and the realization that we (as individuals) frequently hear the same things differently at different times. Finally, a simple test may reveal the priorities one has with regard to listening to music reproduction. Can you really get into a piece of music when hearing it on a cheap portable AM radio? Can you be so involved as to forget the disreputable poverty of the audio playback system at hand? If so, be thankful that the obsession has not completely overtaken you and that, unlike the Emperor, you can still recognize your own nakedness.
Classicaudio - maybe the issue is just symantic - my kids reckon anything remotely good is "awesome" - just part of the language equivalent of inflation.
"Can you really get into a piece of music when hearing it on a cheap portable AM radio?" Yes Waldhorner,I can and do (FM that is). That is the real point and the reason why I suspect many music lovers don't really bother with hi-end audio systems. Because they recognize the true difference between real and reproduced and it is the music itself that they hear and are interested in. Not necessarily the quality of reproduced. Sometimes I think that hi-end audio, especially on full orchestral music, highlights the differences to a greater degree since it is a real attempt to mimic real. It can then ironically become a distraction when things arent sounding right. When listening to a table radio you aren't listening critically to how it sounds but to the music itself, less of a distraction. Having said that does not mean I want to listen to music all the time on a table radio, just that I can enjoy the music for its own sake. And unlike others, I would NEVER have a good audio system in my office. It would be too much of a distraction so I have a small Phillips Magnavox CD changer/tuner/tape player with 2 speakers kept at low volume and when I do take the time out to listen I can turn up the volume and enjoy. That is how I see it but I'm sure others have their own take.
If I can afford a Ferrari (that is 10x more expensive than my present ride), and can't prove that it is 10x better; Is this a justifiable reason that I should not consider purchacing the Ferarri?
Thanks for the post Classic, I would say I've tracked your story fairly closely and had the same opinions. I did take the "next step" a couple years ago from the $3000+- system to the 10x more. Piece by pice I began upgrading and with each step was amazed at what the next level could do. Was it 10 times better? No, of course no, but with the final piece set into the system it's easily three or four times better. It truely amazes me every time I go back and listen to music I know well. The "listening" experience is so much more satisfying than befor. Don't misunderstand, I loved my old system and my 18 year old son now has it comlpete and intact so I can hear them side by side. Three to four times is a hell of a jump, and for me, who only loves his stereo for the music, not the equipment, I WOULD NEVER GO BACK!!
Great post!! I have to agree with the above that you dont get the same bang for the buck when you spend more money. Is it worth it? It is to me. I drive a shit box and have to hang all my clothes in the closet because I dont own a bureau yet I have a $65,000 system. All my money goes to feeding my frenzied addiction of high end audio. I know that I am obsesive and my priorities are in complete disarray but when I sit in the haven of the sweet spot I experience orgasmic bliss. I have sat in that chair for as long as twenty hours. Getting up only for essentials like another beer. I have learned that if you work hard you can have any one great thing in life. Be it a Porshe, nice house, or a system that would please the gods. I consider myself lucky to recognize this and acheive so much in a hooby that makes me truy happy.
Another thought. It is innapropriate to relate "how many times" a more expensive piece of equipment costs with "how much better" it sounds. There may be an absolute measure of perfection with regards to sound, i.e. live music. But the gradations towards that ultimate, probably unreachable goal, are purely subjective. Whether something sounds better than something else, is less subjective than "how much better" it sounds. But it is still subjective --hence all the debates of vinyl vs. CDs, tubes vs. SS, etc. So how much nearer to live sound does a $100K system get you than a $10K system ? Perhaps "a lot" nearer if looked at from the standpoint of the $10K system. But looking at it from the standpoint of the live sound, neither of them sounds that close. To use an example: I would submit that the $10K system gets you 20% of the way to perfection, and the $100K equipment gets you 40% of the way. So a 10x investment over the $10K system (1000% increase in expenditure) gets you only a 100% improvement in sound, but only a 20% absolute step(40%-20%) towards perfection. And as you spend more, these marginal sound improvements will get smaller. Of course, these numbers are subjective, based on my own asessment of sonic imnprovements. We audiophiles are prepared to spend increasingly large amouts of our disposable income for only marginal, as well as highly subjective, improvements in sound reproduction.
Joe_I think your subjective baseline numbers are little too low, although I agree with what you are saying. In my subjective view, a good 10K system can get you 60% to the reference and the 100K will get you 85%. You spend 50 K more and get closer to 90 %.The last 10 % is not possible at any cost. Yet!
Sometimes they buy something that does not help & is not better & convince themselves it is better. Still can talk about how much money is in it. It is a hobby so there is continual looking for improvement whether real or imaginary. Classicaudio Not sure I am an audiophile either, said to have Golden ears, can hear difference if any. Am more into cars, have had killer stereos for Rock for many years. Not that expensive to do, esp. if one does not care how much space it takes, did have to tweak it. Ehider Know what you meant by the Ferrari comment. Performance is what matters to me. Bought a Corvette when could not afford a Ferrari, later could have paid cash for a Ferrari, but did not since the Corvette I had was better from a performance standpoint.
This is a wonderful thread. I'd like to come to the defense of all us audiophiles in one respect. We really don't indulge in expensive gear to impress. Vary few of us have audiophile friends to impress. If you do you're fortunate. I think most of us have my experience. When I had a dinner party and put music on in the background several people were impressed with the sound. They walked over to my system and asked what's all that? Krell? Sonic Frontiers? ARC? They were not impress because they had never heard of that stuff. They almost always launch into a discussion of the great Yamaha home theater system they heard last month at SoundTrack. Bottom line here is you'd better be self actualized and love music to be an audiophile. If your bag is to impress neighbors, relatives and non-audiophile friends you better be into high end cars or TV's.
I agree that not many indulge in expensive gear to impress others - people who aren't into it think you're crazy for how much you spent and a lot of people who are into it think you're crazy for picking what you picked. Just check out a large number of these threads. By far the most satisfaction is experiencing it and enjoying it yourself. That said, there must be some status-driven nature to it since there is a lot of aesthetics-driven cost-impacting decisions made with regard to the design of high-end gear, but when you think about it, very few people actually see the gear and understand why it's special. Nowhere near as status-worthy as a nice car even beyond the fact that you don't park your system in your driveway.
Nilthepill thanks for sharing your own views of closeness to perfection. Once again, itis a highly subjective topic. I think we are closer to live sound when you refer to amplkified sound i.e. a rock concert. But even then, more accurate in a small club setting as opposed to large theater. But with un-amplified, acoustic music, including the pure human voice, or the sound of a piano, I insist we are no better than 40% of the way, even with the best equipment around. A night at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center (ugh!) is sufficent to prove it. At least in my subjective view...
Good posts Keis and Kthomas-- I agree. The last friend I showed my stereo system to is still using 8 trk tapes (I'm serious), and of course has never heard of the likes of McCormack, Levinson, SF, or even Vandersteen. I upgrade to satisfy and impress myself. Happy holidays.
Great thread ! Makes me remember my old Ampzilla, Thalia preamp, Thorens turntable and Advent speakers. Back then I swore that nothing could ever sound better. Boy, I wasn't even close. Only thing is, back then, when I think about it, even with the crude electronics of the day I enjoyed listening as much as I do now with a system that costs much more and is more refined. I guess it's all about the music. The best audio equipment in the world is useless unless you love what you are listening to. Just my 2 cents...Thanks all for listening.