Expectations low, listening pleasure high.

I am listening to a $300 minisystem, and am thoroughly
enjoying the experience. This is in stark contrast to my
experience with my highend stuff. Although I feel I have
the right components and synergy, I never quite feel as
though I am enjoying myself because I am either making
judgments on the sound, or because so much money was
spent I expect so much in return. Now I know that my
kilobuck system sounds better than the mini, but it makes
me wonder when this obsession with sound quality interferred
with actually listening to the performance. I figure it all
started with magazine reviews, and countless number
of components to achieve what will never be. It seems we/I
will always focus on what is not right with our systems because
nothing is perfect. And thats where I think everything went
wrong; Imagine what would happen in our day to day relationships
if we traded in our friends and spouses like we do our equipment.
I guess the enjoyment comes in the constant pushing of that boulder up the hill like Camus's Sisyphus. Anyone else experience this phenomenon?
Now back to Stan Getz on the mini.
I think that what you describe is fairly common in our hobby. I occasionally find myself trying to do the same thing, but usually catch myself and just get into the music. The truth of the matter is that we are all blessed with better sound quality than 99.999% of the population. I usually have 4-6 hours in a day to enjoy the music, and most of the time I count my lucky stars.

I should also say that I don't read the audio mags. I find they fuel the fire for me to be overly critical of the listening experience. And yes, I can also enjoy a good performance from a mini system.

Sometimes it can be difficult to seperate the gear from the music. It being all about the music, leads to happy listening. IMO

No, now that I've gotten my system sounding amazingly close to the live experience, I'm pretty much amazed that it can replicate the character of real instruments so convincingly.

In fact, normally when I go to a live concert I'm disappointed in the sound. Usually the acoustics are poor, and if the band is amplified through a PA then the music is usually too loud, too distorted, has too much bass, and the vocals are hard. I did go to a live unamplified acoustic concert this weekend and the sound of the same instruments and vocals through my system compared very closely to what I heard there.

So when I sit back and listen to recordings on my reference system it captures the beauty and emotion of the performance quite well. There's no mini that I know of that can even come close to delivering realistic dynamics, soundstaging, and power/articulation at both frequency extremes.

About the best thing I can say about listening to a good mini is that it's generally non-offensive if you keep the volume to a reasonable level and you can usually follow the basic melody and even recognize some of the instruments. Probably having low or no expectations is the key to enjoying a mini. I mean heck, I can listen to a boom box or car radio and enjoy it, but it doesn't for a minute fool me into thinking I'm listening to anything close to what the real band sounded like. When I listen to the radio at work, I'm usually thinking, "man, this rig sucks." It's an old Marantz solid-state receiver with tiny Radio Shack speakers.

It's like a lot of home theater systems -- If you close your eyes and just listen to the sound (without peeking at the big screen) it doesn't sound nearly as good.

On the other hand, I did recently put together a vintage system that cost next to nothing using large Altec Lansing bookshelf speakers (size of AR 3As) and an Onkyo receiver that sounds quite impressive considering its age and price. And it even sounds better from the next room...
I'm kinda with Plato on this. I listen to a boombox or car radio all day. I find while I enjoy the music I know this/that selection, would sound so much better in the living room.--Love my Wilsons--.
The coffee shop I go to in the mornings has a little Phillips mini system that couldn't have retailed for more than $100. One speaker is behind the napkins and one is in the kitchen. The hippies that work there play mp3's off of the computer in the next room through this little stereo. It doesn't sound half bad (all things considered).
Plus I have discovered some great new music by listening to what they play.
WOW!!!!!!! you guys as usual hit it right on the nail!!!, I am almost 57 years old, cholesterol is down! the wife claims I am only sort of retired, (what ever that means###@@%##**%%) and after 56 years! Oh yeah! I started really young, I finally have my Krell, TAKE ME HIGHER!!!!!! signature system. HAPPY EASTER TO YOU ALL!
I would strongly advise Camus to seek medical attention at a clinic or his personal doctor. These things only get worse, he could go blind!
"Now I know that my kilobuck system sounds better than the mini," Cody.
Depends on whether you listen to "sounds" or "music". Just because something sounds better doesn't mean you will enjoy the music any more.
I have found more revealing systems can be disappointing over the long run because they reveal too much - the bad as well as the good. Then I end up listening to the system and not the music. Besides, I don't expect to hear all these problems when I just spent $10,000.
Sure, an expensive system can sound glorious but I'm not about to stop listening to music I love because it's a lousy recording. Neither am I going to listen to music I hate for very long just because it's a great recording.
We tried so hard to get my girlfriend a nice stereo but even a little B&W/Rotel or Epos/Creek system easily goes for $3,000. Face it, the hi-end audio industry has the consumer by the xxxx's.
We got her an Aiwa EC-12, lacks power and is a little bright (treble tone control takes care of that) but for $79.95 new on closeout from Ebay, it gets the job done. At moderate listening levels and not counting bass, sound is not as far off from hi-end as most people are willing to believe.
the music is in you. 'never trust a man whose life isn't ruled by music'.....this would include many equipmentphiles.
Agree that real music can come from the cheapest sources.
It can sound better, but the music is still there.
I have a moderate system and am happy with it.
I 'know' certain things could be better, but I don't care.
(I do usually go in spurts, right now I am in a DVD buying craze.. last year it was Jazz CDs...)
Anyway, it is curious how certain cheap (sub $300. total)reproducers can grab your attention with the music, and other very expensive ($40K+) setups can leave you unhappy!
it is the gap between expectations and reality which determines the reaction to the stereo system.

the lower the expectations the greater the pleasure, because the analytic "mind" is suspended.

when expectations are higher one is listening critically.
there is less enjoyment when listening critically and when one's ego is at stake after spending a sizable chunk on components.

in general if you want to enjoy music, don't analyze or be critical. it is easier to do this with low expectations.

the more money spent the higher the expectations and less enjoyment.

sometimes it is better to listen to a stereo system without being aware of the prices or names of components. that way there is no expectations
Clearly, at least to me, we are simply talking about the subjective factor, which is no small consideration. When I'm desperate to upgrade or feeling down because I can't afford another $3k or whatever, I put on some music I enjoy and accompany it with a nice merlot or cabernet when in the mood. I find myself totally happy, of course. I don't try to convince myself that "upgrading" is a loser's take on reality ... as, for example, I've been through four amps in the past 13 months ... and the one I've got now pleases me the most, though it isn't even close to being the most expensive of the group. The other amps were very good, but this one works extremely well with my speakers. My speakers are the most enjoyable I've ever had in 40+ years of have some sort of audio "system." I'm selling an expensive SACD/CD player for one that is better, even though it will cost $100s less.

I'm spending a lot less money but, not so surprisingly, "upgrading" at the same time. I don't have extreme "expectations," but I have found the musical experience that really registers with me.

I understand the broader criticism/comment, and I share it, but I've never been as happy as I am now with the audio I experience in my home.
My favorite stereo is my kitchen stereo.
Is is a thriftstore scrounged job that sits on top of the cabinets.
I use it when I am cooking and my favorite radio shows usually coincide with these times. Maybe it is just the positive associations and correlations between food, listening content, and listening satisfaction.
Enough booze does make most equipment related anxiety fade as well.

All of you people that say drinking increases your musical enjoyment... have you tried pot? works a lot better...
Goatwuss, It's an interesting trip, just don't do it with earphones. My ears are still ringing! :-)
If you combine enough vices simultaneously (booze, pot, audiophilic-self-gratification,etc.) dont you go blind,... or grow hairy ears or something?
I used to have an old aiwa minisystem and thought that sounded fine for years. It wasn't until I got a decent pair of bookshelves and integred that I realized what was missing. It's the soundstage and image, the sense of space in the sound. You loose that sense of spaciousness when listening to a cheap minisystem or radio. You don't need a megabucks system to get some descent imaging and soundstage.

In regards to the original post, I've found that high end audio is alot more then just buying components and plugging them in and pressing play. From speaker placement, to toe in, to room treatments, there is so much that goes into it and if you don't get it right, you can end up unsatisfied.
Hoorah! happy people enjoying listening to MUSIC on cheaper hi-fi systems, or should that be lo-fi?
Off to Walmutt tomorrow to buy a an 'all in one', and still get change from $100 to buy a few Cd's.
Long live the music!