Emotional rollercoaster


I think I've been slowly improving my system over years. Starting with garage sale finds and tip finds to eBay and ultimately spending serious dollars on some decent amplification and speakers. I was even going to post recently about how the journey has been worth it.
Then this afternoon I tested an old Akai AA-5200 that I'd retrieved from under my ex's house (left it there 8 or so years ago) and I connected it to some old magnat 10p speakers I picked up for about $40 ages ago.... and behold.... I was listening to about $60 of hi-fi equipment that sounded extraordinarily nice and made me wonder why I'd spent a hundred and fifty times that much "improving" my main system over the years. 
It's left me disillusioned and fragile. Is spending big bucks a sham. Where have I gone wrong. It's an emotional rollercoaster. Help.



mid-fi-crisis
Actually it just reinforces your love of music versus your love of the gear. I have 3 systems in my house and enjoy all of them, including the factory GM car system. If you find you tap your feet listening to your friend's Bose radio, be happy knowing your preference is the music not the value of the source.  
It's a good start, but you've only taken the first step on "the journey".  If I were you I'd have the Akai not just re-capped, but refurbished.  This would include not just electrical work, but having the cabinet refinished.  Also be sure to install an IEC inlet so you can swap out power cords.  The Akai's really responds well to upgraded power cords!  Also replace the footers, but don't go crazy.  Check the drivers on the Magnats.  They probably don't need any work, but just to be sure replace the ferrofluid.  Definitely get the upgraded crossovers.  They should still be available out of Canada.  And since you have the loudspeakers all stripped down, refinish the cabinets.  I'd go with a high gloss, automotive lacquer, but that's just me.   See, step two really isn't that difficult, but brace yourself for step three.  That's where we really get serious.
What dill said^^^ I also believe a particular sound can trigger good emotions,the same as a particular scent will.I have an old Pioneer receiver that I thoroughly enjoy too.
mid-fi-crisis,

[Is spending big bucks a sham.]

Yes, after 35+ years I think it is largely a sham.

One largely perpetuated by reviewers, snake oil tweak merchants, unscrupulous dealers (the good dealers only need an introduction - they never push), and all too many other vested 3rd party interests who may want to offload their mistakes.

It’s a vicious circle rotating around the desire for your currency.


[Where have I gone wrong.]

Probably the same place as me in believing and trusting dishonest/ deliberately misleading reviewers.
I have come to believe they know exactly what they’re doing, and where their bread is buttered. (It’s now a part of a greater malaise affecting the whole mainstream media - but that’s another story).

They will not criticise a product, they will not compare a product with an established reference from the past, they will not compare top products side by side.

For example where, in the miles and miles of column inches can you find a group test review of high end speakers?

You can’t. Why not? Anything to do with the editorial directive that potential loss of as revenue must never be risked!?

Here in the UK you will get more informed opinion from the consumer magazine Which?, than a skipful of audio magazines aimed at the domestic consumer. Freedom from ad revenue is no small issue.

Instead, far too many domestic audio reviwers continue to listen to the same old well recorded (garbage) discs year after year.

Thankfully there are a growing of pro-audio publications emerging worldwide. These are likely to be of far more use in the future. Hopefully ad pressures are less of a concern to them.



[It’s left me disillusioned and fragile. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Help]

I’m sorry to hear that, but you are not alone - far from it. Tales of disgruntled, disillusioned, exhausted audiophiles who eventually jump off the upgrade train and downsize with great relief and no loss of sonic satisfaction are legion.

I too have many bitter memories / experiences as a consumer. My whole LP12 saga leaves me fragile if I allow myself the luxury of contemplating. I thought I was finally nearing the top of the ladder but somehow they kept adding extensions upwards. Somehow I was getting less satisfied with the climb.

At least we both take consolation in that we eventually recognised the salient fact that it’s the music, that comes first and the music that matters most.



[I was listening to about $60 of hi-fi equipment that sounded extraordinarily nice and made me wonder why I’d spent a hundred and fifty times that much "improving" my main system over the years.]

You were probably trying to do the same as all too many of us : namely climb the upgrade ladder in search of satisfaction. Unfortunately, this dream all too often turns out to be little more possible than the attempt to climb Jacob’s Ladder.

It’s laughable but I can tell you that files played back from my Motorola G7 via my Tribit X Sound Go Bluetooth speaker can provoke a similar emotional reaction to that from my main system. That tiny speaker is not lacking in any way in the presentation of timbre or rhythm.

Furthermore the truth about cables, amplifiers, CD players, MP3 rates, DACs etc has been well understood for decades.

Unfortunately, there are many, many selfish vested interests in suppressing these truths.

See below.

Anyway, signing off from one fellow audiophile survivor to another, here’s wishing you the best of luck for the future.

Cue the Who
https://youtu.be/SHhrZgojY1Q
Is spending big bucks a sham. Where have I gone wrong. It's an emotional rollercoaster. Help.

Its not a sham. But it does show just how challenging a task it is to build a truly satisfying system, regardless of price.  

Having done this quite a while now I feel there's actually a technical reason why this is so, and if so and you can understand it then you can use it to great advantage. 

I've said before the way to build a system is everything matters, so do everything equally. But I get flack for recommending spending equal parts on each component. Like 25% each on source, speakers, amp, and wire. Or what gets even more grief is 20% each on source, speakers, amp, wire and tweaks. Good God the grief I get for that! 

But look at your story. Please. Look at it. What you just did proves my point. Because by going dirt cheap then what you did is bring everything down to the level of the crap wire and non-existent tweaks! Because everything is level there is nothing shining out, nothing revealing anything else's flaws in excruciating detail. Just a nice overall balanced presentation.  

Money is just the very crude indicator we use as a substitute for performance. Its a crutch. Its not really the cost that matters, its the performance. As long as everything performs at about the same level then your odds of finding magic go way up.  

I've proved this more than once. Two of the best most fun systems I ever heard were ones I built for $1200 and $2500. The one for $1200 was set up in my listening room to burn in before delivery. For 2 weeks this little one was so darn captivating I never turned my main system on!  

What made these so especially impressive to me was they were both built without auditioning a single component. I simply budgeted out equal amounts for each part, selected from reviews and a few known good components, and put it all together. Boom. Done. The little $1200 was so knock-out good I had a string of people over to hear it.  

Now obviously that was one and done. Most audiophiles keep wanting more, adding and upgrading. Naturally in this process there will be times when one thing or another is leading or lagging. But that's the key to the emotional roller coaster. Once you understand what is going on you can either one and done your way off it, or relax and enjoy the ride.
It is good you enjoy the Akai and Magnats.

I remember enjoying my college system. Since then, the improvements have been in small steps that depended on me learning what to listen for, as well as more capable equipment.

Back in college, I didn’t pay any attention to imaging, musical details (like the sound of individual instruments vs, e.g., wall-of-sound), or second order harmonic distortion, etc. I just enjoyed the music.

The magazine reviews helped point me to what to listen for. I learned to hear the differences, small as they sometimes were. Sometimes I had to spend a lot more money to achieve a small improvement, an improvement I would not have even noticed early on. Was it worth the money? Only if you care about such differences.

I remember visiting a store during college and thinking about upgrading to a pair of KLH 5s. The sales guy said they were very good speakers. I asked him if they could convince me that the musicians were in the room. He just looked at me and rolled his eyes. Of course not.

Now, after years of upgrading, I can sometimes get that feeling of live presence. I can’t even name all the types of improvement that have come together to achieve this. But I am happy. And yes it was worth it.
It is about the music, not the equipment. In my case, though, I have found that I enjoy the music more if it is played through a decent system. 
I started this journey out 45 years ago when my dad bought a receiver and a turntable from the Shell gas company. In absolute terms it probably sounded awful but I was mesmerized. I started buying a few records. 
When I got to college I started buying better stuff, still not very fancy but the music sounded better with each step up the ladder. 
About 15 years ago I bought what might be called my first “high end” system. I kept that system for over 10 years, loving every minute. 
Then, 3 years ago I retired and wondered what was out there. I ended buying a whole new system. The music never sounded better! I could hear each instrument, where the vocalists were, etc.  Amazing!

i have continued to tweek my system with new cables and other toys, each one making incremental improvements in what I heard. 
Will I step off the ladder now?  I doubt it, I find it to be too much fun!

As to the OP, if you’re happy with $60 worth of equipment, awesome!  But I would not feel bad about trying to improve your experience of the music by upgrading your equipment. 
Enjoy the music!
Is that the Magnat with the dome mid-range? I can't remember if they came that way or lots of people upgraded them.  Dome mid-ranges are often good at wider/smoother dispersion, a key element usually of a successful loudspeaker in a typical room.

@mid-fi-crisis, may I ask how much you have spent on acoustic room treatments?  All that tweak stuff is meaningless until you fix your acoustics and then once you do that, you may find you don't need to chase tweaks as much.

While all amplifiers do not sound the same, in a particular style\architecture of amp, the differences when not pushed (by volume or speaker), can be small between competent amps and really good amps.

In my opinion, those that say "everything matters", are plainly wrong or at least miscommunicating. Everything does not matter to the same degree, not even close.  #1 is the recording. #2 is the speakers and #2a is the room. Spend a fortune on great speakers, and little on your room, then your system will never be good. You will probably continuously chase cables, and tweaks, often exclaiming Eureka! ... till the next Eureka!, but alas, the eureka is temporary.  #3 is source  (assuming a competent amp). #4 is amp. We assume at this point you have competent, but not expensive cables.

This concept of sound-stage and imaging, it does not come from expensive cables, nor expensive amplifiers, nor even expensive sources (competent is enough). It comes from the recording, speakers, and room.  There are many who have convinced themselves otherwise, and they will repeatedly claim X greatly expanded the sound-stage, but lets be honest, how many times can you claim that for the same system? I hate to think how bad it was before. 


One well placed acoustic panel will make a larger impact on how your system sounds than changing from any competent cable to an expensive cable. It won't even be close. It will be a bigger change than changing from a competent to expensive amplifier (assuming both similar in architecture/sonic style) in many cases. We are not talking "tweaking" the sound here, we are talking readily apparent and significant change.

Spending big bucks is not a sham. Being told you can't have a great system unless you spend big bucks on "certain" items .. yes, that is a sham.

cd318
I think it is largely a sham. One largely perpetuated by reviewers, snake oil tweak merchants, unscrupulous dealers ...all too many other vested 3rd party interests who may want to offload their mistakes ... they know exactly what they’re doing, and where their bread is buttered. (It’s now a part of a greater malaise affecting the whole mainstream media - but that’s another story) ... Tales of disgruntled, disillusioned, exhausted audiophiles who eventually jump off the upgrade train and downsize with great relief and no loss of sonic satisfaction are legion.

I too have many bitter memories / experiences as a consumer. My whole LP12 saga leaves me fragile ... the truth about cables, amplifiers, CD players, MP3 rates, DACs etc has been well understood for decades.

Unfortunately, there are many, many selfish vested interests in suppressing these truths.
Wow, you sound really unhappy. You might consider pursuing another hobby altogether.

Your "truths" obviously aren’t "supressed" because here they are, and I’ve even copied some of those "truths" in this post.

    mid-fi-crisi,

    If discovering you don't need to spend big bucks to get decent sounding results in this hobby plops you down on an allegorical emotional roller coaster ride, perhaps you need a new hobby.
     Perhaps you'd find knitting more soothing to your psyche.

Tim
If you build a high-end setup that sounds like sterile high-tech "hifi", and sounds by far its best on stuff like Diana Krall (and other audiophile demo fodder), then you’ve opened yourself up to the possibility that decent midfi gear from yesteryear that plays "loud and proud" will actually present a better connection to most of the music you actually love, even if it starts rolling off at say 14 kHz and has some boominess in the bass.
We don’t know what we really want a lot of the time. You can’t hit the target until you know what it is.

Random upgrades may well get you nowhere fast.

Better to first hear the sound you want and know what it is then pursue achieving it.

You have to listen to a lot of things usually to know. Both live music and recorded.

Then read a lot and learn about how hifi components work and forge out a plan.

Then make changes or tweaks from there until you finally hit the bullseye.

Also be aware along the way that all recordings sound different. They range from really bad to really good. Don’t get caught trying to put lipstick on a pig. Learn what specific recordings sound like on a good system and use that as a reference.

Good things don’t come easy. Good luck!
cleeds,

'Wow, you sound really unhappy. You might consider pursuing another hobby altogether.'

Yes, me and the OP both! This kind of disillusionment almost inevitably awaits every unsuspecting audiophile caught up in the upgrade path.

However, just like the OP, my passion for music has not dimmed. In fact it is as strong as ever. I now can enjoy music on a variety of systems : my phone/ headphones/Bluetooth speaker, my PC, or on my separates system.

The issue here is the way some of us feel we were mislead.

As the OP said,  

'I was listening to about $60 of hi-fi equipment that sounded extraordinarily nice and made me wonder why I'd spent a hundred and fifty times that much "improving" my main system over the years.'

That is the question here, isn't it?

You see when many of us started our journey towards seeking our version audio nirvana we had very little idea of what path to follow, with no map/guide and very little idea of what the end destination might be.

In the absence of both knowledge and experience (two essential pre-requisites before embarking) many of us tended to accept what we had read. After all, these were experienced learned men of the hi-fi world speaking. Weren't they?

There lies the problem.

Today, thanks to the internet, anyone new to this hobby can look around and share others experiences and be far better prepared for their journey than their predecessors ever were.

More skeptical and less gullible, I hope.
As they say, it's always better to think for yourself. Ultimately it's far more rewarding despite the extra effort.



mulveling,

Good for you brother, knowing of that particular all too common 'audiophile demo fodder' trap.

It took me ages and ages to realise why they hated playing mainstream recordings at demos or shows.

In fact at one demo I was even told, "If you're going to listen to that 60s stuff, you may as well stay with the system you've got."

At the time that didn't compute, but I now realise that those words were not very far off the mark.

I still love audio, I still love music, and though I wish my journey had been easier, I still dream of that audio nirvana.

Just not so vividly now.

millercarbon
5,108 posts

07-09-2020 11:53am

I’ve proved this more than once. Two of the best most fun systems I ever heard were ones I built for $1200 and $2500. The one for $1200 was set up in my listening room to burn in before delivery. For 2 weeks this little one was so darn captivating I never turned my main system on!

I know that millercarbon and I have different views on what is important in an audio system, but I believe his post reinforces a point I was making above whether he intended to or not. Take a look at millercarbon’s system pictures. I can’t speak to how well optimized his room is acoustically, but it certainly looks like it addresses all the basics well. In my opinion, that is why that $1,200 system sounds so captivating.


With odd exception, I could take friends speakers and amplifiers, hook the speakers up with $1/foot speaker cable, use stock cables, and use an LG V30 as the source, and it will sound not just a bit better, but a lot better in my dedicated custom built listening room, then it will in their homes, no matter the fancy sources, cables, or other doodads they have. It won’t even be close. There may be some minor "imperfections" in the sound, but w.r.t. an immersive experience, it won’t be close.
I never upgrade components willy-nilly.  I'm not a trigger-puller.  When I get to a point where I really like what I hear I pretty much get off the carousel for a while.  It doesn't hurt that, ever since I left the mid-fi universe for the tweaky audiophile one, I choose my components as carefully as I can and I seldom have regrets.  I only have upgrade-itis when a component breaks.  I've never been less than 90% at ease with what my audio system delivers at any particular point in the journey.  It's only when a new technology emerges (such as digital downloads, streaming, etc.) that lust truly begins to manifest.
You people keep equating sound quality with price.  If you would learn more about parts and how they impact the sound you would find your ultimate happiness.  I remember going to a local audio club in New Jersey and one of the guys asked me to look at his $10K power amplifier from a well known manufacturer (probably 40 years in business now) and when I took the cover off, I said unfortunately out loud, what a piece of junk, not knowing the owner was behind me.  Parts inside were just basic caps and resistors, transformer was cheap.  So that is when he challenged me if you can do better go ahead and the rest has been history as they say.

I have a friend I call vintage Joe.  He goes to estate sales and he finds fantastic bargains.  Some of the stuff was very high priced equipment years ago.  For example Harmon Kardon series XX preamp and amplifier for $200 in mint shape with boxes and manuals.  Now that was a find and they sound great.  Old speakers like the KEF 104/2 105s, Sony, Rogers, etc.  All those old box speakers still sound excellent and so much musical in the mid-range makes me rethink everything also.

Happy Listening.
It’s much easier to buy integrated gear that works well rather than integrate it yourself.


The Bel Canto c5i digital integrated amp is a good example. Has most everything you need and will work well with most any speaker. 

Why do people with no experience think they can pick the right gear that will work well together? It’s not easy and most reviews are of little value for that.

     Some very good points there, mapman, Wise words spewing out of your pie hole, well done!

" We don’t know what we really want a lot of the time. You can’t hit the target until you know what it is."

     True, but I wanted to add that, even if we know the target, there are different methods to achieve it. For example, my target was an overall system experience that was dimensional, with solid and stable images in its stereo sound stage imaging, along with a sound that was on the warm side with a bit of sweetness and bloom. Sorry about the cliche audio terms but I think you and most others understand my meaning.
     From what I learned and heard along the way, I initially thought this type of target would require tubes somewhere in the chain. So I bought a VTL preamp, swapped out its standard tubes for expensive NOS Mullards and combined it with a series of high powered ss class AB amps. This approach actually did provide the target system qualities I sought and I always assumed the tubes were adding these qualities to the music I played.
     Recently, I had the urge to try out a different approach which consisted of pairing a very neutral, detailed, low noise and low distortion ss preamp (a ML 326S) with a pair of very neutral, detailed, low noise and low distortion ss class D monoblock amps (D-Sonic M3-600-M). My theory being that this approach would minimize noise and distortion, add very little if anything to the inputted signals, manifesting itself in a close approximation of the audio ideal of ’a straight wire with gain’.
     thought going in that this neutral approach would likely result in the quality of the recordings becoming the main determinant of the overall sound quality of my system and, therefore, a limiting factor.  However, I was willing to accept this compromise.
     What was the result of all this redundant low noise, low distortion and general neutrality?

     Well what do you know, I now perceive the overall sound of my system as having very low noise and distortion, having a high level of detail and generally being very neutral, like a ’straight wire with gain’. But the main lesson I’ve learned during this approach is that it allows the recording and music to be heard and judged on their own merits. I’ve learned that what qualities I thought tubes were adding to the overall sound of my system, the dimension, warmth, sweetness and bloom, are actually qualities that are inherent in the music itself.
     I no longer believe that adding even ordered harmonics are necessary for musical enjoyment. I now believe high faithfulness or fidelity to the inputted signals is a better approach because it’s a simpler, more conducive to being measured and it results in equally enjoyable musical experiences. It’s also important to recognize that high quality recordings are essential in conveying these qualities with a high degree of fidelity.
     My current opinion is that, once a high quality audio system has been assembled and created, that’s exactly where the focus belongs; on the quality of the recording and the qualities of the music. The more knowledge and experience I gain in audio, the more I believe hi-fi, as in high fidelity, is a very accurate and appropriate name for our hobby.

Tim
Trust what YOU  actually hear and spend accordingly
I am a newbie here, so my word won't carry much weight. But here it is. Upgrading is definitely worth it as long as you keep it within your budget. But starting with the listening room acoustics is the best way to go in my experience.  It took me to turn 65 to get serious about that and a year later my listening experience evolved immensely. It doesn't make much sense to upgrade the equipment if the room acoustics are bad. Too many people completely disregard that aspect in search of their ultimate sound. It will just lead to bad decisions and disappointment. The room acoustics are your foundation. Get that right and things will fall into place much easier.
Glad you like the sound of your system. If you like what you have, stay away from audio forums, trade mags, and audio shows. I have a half dozen systems in my house ranging from an Apple HomePod, to home theater, an office system, and a dedicated audio room plus others. I enjoy them all, I also enjoy listening to my iPhone with an attached dac thru a nice set of headphones on a plane.But the quality of each corresponds to what you pay for each, meaning, there are big differences climbing the audio ladder So to speak. For example, my $1000 office system sounds pretty good especially for the price, but when I listen to my dedicated audio system that costs 40x more, it sounds 100x better, not even close in comparison. I have heard systems that I like better by a big margin but at a 4x or more the price of mine. When is enough enough?

Good point that the room is the part of the system you have least control over so inevitably it’s always about putting the right setup in place for the room and no two rooms are exactly the same. 

     Well said, baylinor!  I agree completely.

     You can either treat and control the room or let the untreated room control the sound.  You're correct, room treatments are as critical for good results just as a good, solid foundation is critical for a building.

Tim

This is a refreshing thread. When big money meets big expectations, the disappointment can be really hard to swallow. When you realize you've been chasing an ideal that's not attainable and you're poorer for it, hurts. The OPs post is real. The roller coaster doesn't slow down by itself. The hype keeps on hyping. 

I'm starting to realize this in my own pretty new audiophile journey. Trying to avoid early mistakes of big money on unknowns. Buying used where possible. Trusting my ear. Becoming less sentimental about gear I've purchased.

Thanks for sharing, OP. 


Could nostalgia be part of what you are feeling/hearing with your old equipment?  So I wonder what I would hear and how I would feel if I could hear the LPs on the system I had when I was 25 years old?  I am darn sure it would bring back memories and feelings long since gone (girlfriends parties, friends, etc) ... that are very much missed.  No equipment I have today (no matter how good) could quite bring back the sound that goes with those memories that drive the emotional response to the music.  So listening to Led Zeppelin on a factory FM radio may resurrect the feeling of cruising with all the windows open, my girlfriend at my side and a joint in my hand more effectively and enjoyably than any expensive system ever could.
cd318,

"For example where, in the miles and miles of column inches can you find a group test review of high end speakers?"


At some point, I have not cheked in some time, British magazines had comparison tests of speakers. I am not sure how believable they were and if they ever had high end, but they existed.



Think of it . What is music made of . Apart from the obvious which is sound it has tempo , rhythm with melodies , submelodies . All this with a particular tone .
If you can get the playback equipment to play the elements that make up music you'll have a musical system . The capability of comunicating these element does not have anything to do with the price of the equipment but rather the synergy between the parts .

During my life I've had small portable transistor radio capable of comunicating these elements and heard thousands of dollars worth of equipment that has left me cold . 
Its not that expensive equipment sound bad in its ability to comunicate music , they can sound great but the fact that its expensive does not garantee excellence in comunicating music . 

We of course play a role in all of this . Many lose sight that its all about the music and get so involved buying and changing equipment that they end up spending thousands looking for something and never finding it . 
This mentality makes certain audiophile easy prey for unsrcupulous dealers who know that you don't have to spend tens of thousands in order to enjoy good music replay .

You seem to have stumble upon a good combination that makes music , thats great but in the event have learn a valuble lesson . 
glupson,

"British magazines had comparison tests of speakers. I am not sure how believable they were and if they ever had high end"

In my experience they were never high end. No one does high end group tests - for anything. It can’t be for lack of interest, can it?

Hi-Fi World (prob the most quirkiest of the bunch), Hi-Fi Choice, Hi-Fi News (best for vintage gear) and What Hi-Fi? (though I’m not too sure if this one is an audio magazine - nice pictures though!) all do feature the odd loudspeaker group test.

These are always current flavour of the month budget designs. You’ll find never a top model from the likes of B&W, Harbeth, Monopulse, Kerr, Spendor, ATC, Tannoy etc featured in a group test - let alone anything from abroad or the pro audio market.

They will also never include a familiar classic design such as the Quad ESL, LS3/5, Spendor BC1 etc for comparison.

In a word or two these tests are mostly useless. At least for any meaningful critical evaluation purposes.

As entertainment, they have their purposes. Ken Kessler for example, in person or in print, is always interesting.

When it comes to sound quality, some of the reviews here on Audiogon are far more relevant.

In fact it was initially stumbling on something that @prof had written about his Thiel CS3.7s timbral and textural qualities that led me to sign up here.

Here was someone posting online on a forum about essential sonic qualities that hardly any journalist had ever considered worth writing about!!

The only one exception I was aware of was the one and only Harvey Rosenberg.

I guess, like most of us, the best we can all hope for is that our words are of some help or interest to others out there.

So yes, my thanks too to @mid-fi-crisis for sharing his experiences. I’m certain they could be of great benefit to those still at the lower end of the audio ladder.

Or is it just a never-ending merry-go-round?
another plus one for room acoustics. I have large 38X22 room and a high end system well tweaked and some room treatments such as in front of speakers and first reflections that I can get away with in a family room. Sounds really good. We are having wood floors put into 3 upstairs bedrooms rooms at the moment so all that extra furniture, mattresses etc is now crammed in my listening room, resulting in even more absorption and diffusion, and guess what - sounds even better!
@millercarbon " Money is just the very crude indicator we use as a substitute for performance. Its a crutch. Its not really the cost that matters, its the performance. As long as everything performs at about the same level then your odds of finding magic go way up."

Chuck, couldn't agree more.

I have spent considerable time, energy and treasure building stereos.
Interestingly, I have always been satisfied with the result. You may ask "If the first one was that good why move on?". The answer is as simple as the stages of life we all go through. But my tastes and desires have not changed in 50 years as far as stereo/music are concerned.

I'm not on another upgrade path....this is it, the last rodeo, just like every other time. Time to sit back and and reap what I have sown.

Music is not the first thing, it's the only thing.  
barts,

'I'm not on another upgrade path....this is it, the last rodeo, just like every other time. Time to sit back and and reap what I have sown.'


Yes, but what if a loudspeaker finally comes along that does most things right?

Texture, timbre, dynamics, bandwidth, dispersion, vanishingly low distortion esp through the 'presence' zone.

What if it can also pull off that all-important disappearing act too?

I guess we'd have to start saving up!

https://www.soundgym.co/blog/item?id=seven-frequency-zones-you-must-identify

cd318,


If we ignore speakers. do those British magazines ever do group tests of other higher-end equipment? I have never paid attention to that stratification and, until you mentioned that nobody compares directly, have never noticed this difference between British and U.S.A. based magazines. I do not think that those from U.S.A. do group tests of anything ever. Interesting how they have different approaches.

The moment that you do group tests, it becomes comparative, and one ends up a winner, another the loser, and the others in between.  U.S. mags would never contemplate this as they'd immediately lose all kinds of advertising revenue, plus many manufacturers would stop sending them freebie examples (long-term loaners) to review.
Of course, given the access of the most of the population in the U.S. to easy audition of multiple competitive components--which is close to zero if you don't live in NY, Chicago or LA--then precisely this kind of review would be the most helpful and a genuine service that a magazine could provide.
"U.S. mags would never contemplate this as they'd immediately lose all kinds of advertising revenue..."
Wouldn't the same happen to those British ones? I know nothing about differences.
I suppose most all of us on this here forum have had our moment at the edge of the Rubicon. It’s about what you want to hear, not what you spend.  You spend what you can to hear what you want to hear.  All the rest is the details. Last weekend at a friend’s house we all had a grand time listening to a plastic receiver and CD player and pair of pressboard speakers on my friend’s patio.  Someone said how good it sounded. They said that because it sounded better than they thought it should, given the obvious quality of the system.  In that moment, that very inexpensive and old stereo fit the bill. Perfectly.  The next day at home, listening to my system, well....  I was reminded I had already crossed the Rubicon, many years ago. 
Happy Friday, happy listening 
*L*(sympathetic variant)  @mid-fi-crisis...Your plantive post reminded me of a line in a concert vid I like....

"They know what they want, but they don't know what is what.....it just sucks.....WT*!"

One can spend phenominal $ 'chasing the spirit' of experience etched into ones' mind of a event in one's past.....

"It was like 'they' were Right There....in the room!  I could almost hear them breathing!"

Imho....like most things involving technology used to evoke experience...one can only expect varying degrees of success to do so.  The equipment, the room, the media can only get one so far....beyond that....

It's like a movie, a book, the 'thing' that lets one forget that you are involved with the suspension of disbelief....acceptance of a recreation of an event, a performance, that which carved a groove into your synapses....

Music, and the performance of it, is a funny thing in its' way.  It has this way of penetrating deep into ones' psyche', invoking all manner of responses.  Like a odor, a word, a thought, it triggers responses you'd thought improbable or forgotten.

And....it doesn't surprise me in the least that some or one can spend inordinate amounts to reprise these states...*S*  And yet, be surprised that those same responses can suddenlly be invoked by something as basic as a car radio....or a desktop Bose....or an ancient receiver driving an old pair of speakers. ;)

That mass betwixt your ears is a marvelous thing.
And it will never cease to amaze you. ;)

Perhaps a case in point...if you're up to it....*beckoning finger, curling*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEutbPu2YwI&feature=emb_rel_end

@ 34:15, an 'intro' to the familiar...the woman on the left @ 34:50 certainly feels so....*G*
@39:35, one is reminded of Fate....;)

For Someone @ that event....it's their 'high water mark', whether you agree or Not.....and the latter doesn't mean anything to anyone but You.

BTW.....FBS is only 10ish yrs. younger than yours truly.
I prefer excitement in my artful noises....;)
But, I'm just like that....*G*
I like my rollercoasters steep.....
Cheers, J
Hello asvjerry,

     I may be showing my age, but what the heck does *G* mean in your posts?  Giggles?

Thanks.
 Tim


glupson,

’If we ignore speakers. do those British magazines ever do group tests of other higher-end equipment?’


No, sadly they don’t - and never have as far as I know.

For sure experienced reviewers like Ken Kessler will cover high-end products. I don’t know how well he’s known in the US, but being originally from the states he’s more likely to cover lesser known products from further afield but he’s a rarity, and doesn’t do group tests.

Other experienced reviewers like Alan Sircom will also take the occasional look at more esoteric gear but again no group tests.

In fact the UK press was so resolutely insular that many of us had no idea of what a Mackintosh amplifier was. Even a monumentally important companies such as Acoustic Research and JBL got very scarce coverage. Magnepan, Thiel, Macintosh, Wilson etc all got similarly short shrift.

For a long time 70s through to 80s the print media continuously pushed a very simple system building philosophy.

For a turntable you started with either a Dual cs505 or a Rega Planar 3 and then upgraded to a Linn LP12 when funds allowed.

For an amplifier you could start with either a Nytech / NAD 3020 and upgrade to an A&R A60 before moving on to pre/power stuff from Naim Audio.

Speakers were more complicated as there were various options ranging from AR, Heybrook, Mordaunt Short, Celestion, Gale, Goodmans, Wharfedale and many more.

Unsurprisingly many magazines still suggested Linn (who had an entire range back then) as a final loudspeaker destination. Thankfully I was never tempted to buy one. Especially so after hearing the fabled Linn Isobariks for the first time in the mid 1980s.

The feeling of being underwhelmed upon hearing such a highly vaunted (and highly priced) loudspeaker has never left me.

As I write this it becomes clear that there was a method behind the machinations of the British press, one that probably still applies today.

It seems as if they were only really interested in products which were available in the UK. That’s where their advertising came from, so it was in effect a cartel of UK manufacturers and UK dealers pushing mainly UK goods.

I think it’s fairly well known now how Linn/Naim in particular, financially pressured dealers with almost draconian measures to stock their products whilst excluding those from their rivals.

Bear in mind there was also considerable barely disguised hostility towards foreign products all in the name of misguided patriotism. In particular Japanese goods (cars, motorbikes and hi-fi) seemed to get a very bad press during the 1970s /80s.

Nevertheless they were able to eventually overcome these handicaps through mainly word of mouth and the odd helpful consumerist programme on TV such as ’That’s Life!’

It also didn’t hurt that they were giant multinationals too. Lesser companies, UK or overseas must have had a torrid time getting a look in.

I bet they still do, on both sides of the pond. I’d go further and argue that there is still a cartel in operation today comprised of manufacturers/dealers and press that renders it extremely difficult for newcomers to succeed.

In fact what are the big new audio success stories of recent times? I can only think of 2 - PMC Speakers and Zu Audio. So congrats to both!

Everyone else could do worse than carefully study them both.
barts,

'I'm not on another upgrade path....this is it, the last rodeo, just like every other time. Time to sit back and and reap what I have sown.'

cd318 ,
"Yes, but what if a loudspeaker finally comes along that does most things right?"

Good question, here's my analog (no pun) to that:
Say I go out and buy a new Porsche 911 Turbo S and it's fast as hell, a blast to drive, blows my dress up, makes me smile and never stops impressing me.   The following year Porsche comes out with a new version that has 25hp more, is better on the skid pad and is raved about in the auto rags.  My take: My car is still as fast, still is a blast, still blows my dress up, makes me smile and never stops impressing me! I am completely satisfied with its performance, couldn't care less about the newest bestest thing on the block.  That's my approach to many things in life: bikes cars stereo house wife. I'm just a complexly simple guy.  
  
Maybe Xanax is the answer. 
barts:" My car is still as fast, still is a blast, still blows my dress up, makes me smile and never stops impressing me! I am completely satisfied with its performance, couldn't care less about the newest bestest thing on the block."

Hello barts,

     Apparently, things tend to blow your dress up fairly regularly.  Have you ever considered wearing pants? 
    It would be a simple solution for a complexly simple guy.

Tim 
I don't believe high end audio is a sham but it is very complex. The first question is, what is better sound? I'm guessing it means something different to each and everyone of us. If you can imagine your perfect audio system in your mind, what would it sound like? If you don't know, how will you know when you have a system that has achieved it? Figure out what good sound is to you. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and trust what you hear. Understand how important room acoustics are to what you are trying to achieve and how issues can be dealt with. Try to figure out who the other people are that share your audio philosophies and seek out their advice.

A great audio system can be very fulfilling and rewarding or it can be a huge pita. Good luck in your journey.
barts,

Good for you. As Clint Eastwood used to say, "A man’s got to know his limitations."

Maybe it’s the same for audiophiles - knowing when enough is enough.


audiorusty,

'If you can imagine your perfect audio system in your mind, what would it sound like? If you don’t know, how will you know when you have a system that has achieved it?’

I can’t speak for anyone else but in my main system, which does so many other right things, the speakers are just a little obvious. Large 1970s chipboard cabinets probably leave a little to be desired when it comes to self effacement and neutrality.

The final frontier (or crossing the Rubicon as someone wittily said earlier), would be precisely that kind of loudspeaker that Siegfried Linkwitz talked about.

One that does most things right and somehow seemingly disappears just leaving behind a phantom musical image.

Just like a reasonable facsimile of performance in front of you.

In the meantime perhaps it’s better to take a leaf out of barts book.
Lots of good information here. I agree that a properly treated room is very important, in fact it's a prerequisite. After that, I'm with mill in regard to everything being important. Obviously speakers will bring a dramatic change to the sound, but if they are transparent, they are only as good as the equipment (including cables, power cords, etc.) upstream. High end audio isn't a sham. The sound I have now is something I could only dream about 20 or 30 years ago. The stage is wall to wall, deep, with ambiance accurate to the recording. I don't regret any of it & typically listen to music 4 or more hours a day. 
I have a mint Mossberg bolt action that might be worth $60, but when a fast flyer drops on the Doyen Superposed, even the Labrador can feel the fluid swing....

but for grins a NAD 3020 with a few tweaks will hunt...

enjoy the music...
noble Tim....*G*=Grin, as in not a *S*mile or a *L*augh.....

It's OK....Old (age and era) previous 'webchatters' sometimes find emoji-speak time consuming....;)
That, and they've made Tribbles look slow in reproduction.....

I'm just obviously somewhat weird in this venue....not that I give a rats' arse over it....;)
How do you know the ambience was accurate to the recording @boxer12? How many of your recordings are live miked with only 2 microphones placed head width at a typical listener position? .... Oh and that you were there for the recording?
Good point atdavid (robertwhatever). I wasn’t there, but the ambience is there in spades in the recordings. BTW, it took a far amount of tweaks & cable changes to finally hear it (across the same speakers & room).
boxer12,
 
"High end audio isn't a sham. The sound I have now is something I could only dream about 20 or 30 years ago. The stage is wall to wall, deep, with ambiance accurate to the recording."

"BTW, it took a far amount of tweaks & cable changes to finally hear it (across the same speakers & room)."


Without details, your posts could be mistaken as mere shills for high-end audio, tweaking and dabbling in random cable upgrades.

It might be more helpful if you at least provided us with a list of a few of these recordings you are now able to reproduce so successfully at home.

Evaluating recordings is difficult enough already without details and specifics.

Perhaps this might help to clarify things.

http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/10/audios-circle-of-confusion.html?m=1
cd318,
To clarify, I'm not a shill but an audiophile looking to get the most out of my system.
A few (there are many) of the better recordings for ambiance:
   Wax Poetic / Istanbul
   Larkin Grimm / The Last Tree
   Starlight Mints / Built on Squares
   moe. / Wormwood

I hope this helps