Five "Golden Rules" of HiFi?

Tough question, but if you had to list your 5 most important "Golden Rules" of hifi, from your own experiences, what would they be?
To start things off, mine would be:

1. Protect your hearing; without it, the rest is pointless.
2. Use a surge/overvoltage protection power board
3. Read lots of reviews and forums like this one
4. Don't buy secondhand speakers (bad experience!)
5. Never buy gear without listening to your own music through it.
Hey - mine match yours! Pretty cool.

1. Don't overspend. You can combine correct componants,appropriate for a particular room, and do well for a reasonable amount of money. You can spend spend an unreasonable amount of money,put together the wrong combination,and have something that sounds bad.

2.Make sure the equipment is appropriate to the room,and deaden the room enough that a hand clap does not echo.

3.(I'm a panel nut.) If you like box speakers,you can buy speakers for fifty cents on a dollar from Madisound.

4. Electonics are so good now that if you choose to buy new,you can safely buy from AVA or Odyssey,based upon specifications,knowing the pieces will meet or exceed the specs,saving what you would have to pay for the retail step-including sales commissions.

5. Remember that listening is passive,that playing is active. Learn to play,or get better at playing an instrument. Play activly at least as much as you listen passively.
4. Don't buy secondhand speakers (bad experience!)? Just asking why not second hand speakers, I have not had a problem in this area.Is it the weight when it comes to shipping and many not having the original box for this application to protect them during transportation.
1. Set a goal by listening to other systems.

2. Find one or two seasoned audiophiles whose opinions you trust, and then seek their advice.

3. Listen before you buy.

4. Trust your own ears.

5. Only buy new what absolutely cannot be found used.
My five are similar to yours, with a couple of modifications since I have had excellent experiences purchasing used speakers, and most of my purchases have been of used equipment that I couldn't listen to first. Here are my 5;
1. Protect your hearing,
2. have fun and enjoy both the eqipment and music aspects of this hobby,
3. interact with others about your system and music,
4. don't overspend, rather build a system within your budget that sounds good on your music, and
5. maximize system effectiveness - through room treatments, vibration management, and clean, protected power.
1. Research gear and set a reasonable budget accordingly.

2. Listen to as many live performances and audio systems as your can to help develop your ear and define your tastes and priorities.

3. If possible, connect with an audiophile/music lover community, preferrably local and/or online.

4. Determine whether you're a last 2% person, be realistic with repect to your given room and system components.

5. The room can be half the battle.
1: Focus as much time and effort to learn about new music as you do the music system. Afterall, it's all about the enjoyment of the music. Without this, what's the point to all the madness of assembling a system.

2: Learn to enjoy what you have rather than constantly being self-pressured to make changes/upgrades.

3: Keep an open mind. We often have expectations on how a component will sound or compare to another only to have the outcome be quite the opposite.

4: Network with other people in the hobby. There is so much to learn through friendships here.

5: Every link in the chain is an equal. Some links may take more time for us to find the "right" piece, but each can only perform at its best if all else is there as well. The result is a well-integrated system rather than simply an assembly of pieces.
1) Make sure you are listening to music, not sounds. If you don't love music, you are wasting your time and money.

2) A system is only as good as its rooom. Spend as much time as you can optimizing placement of speakers and components. Moving a speaker 3 inches can change the sound more than a new pre-amp!

3) If at all possible, buy it used. This especially applies to cables and cords. It probably does not apply to analog cartridges.

4) Understand the technology and it's strength's and limitations. If you have a tube amp, understand how to properly bias the tubes and when to replace them.

5) Trust your own tastes, realizing, in time, your system should reflect your musical values. A person who mostly listens to String Quartets will most likely end up with a different flavor than someone who is into heavy metal. This is ok., no one has a system capable of reproducing a live perfomrance perfectly, they are all colored to some degree, and that's just fine. You know, some people like chocolate, some like vanilla; neither of these is "right"
I really like what Jafox say's above. I think it's real important to educate yourself about new music, or old music that's new to you, as it is to be obsessive about equipment (for me anyway).

I like the idea of hearing as many different systems as possible to educate yourself on the presentations you prefer too.

Add to the list: Enjoy live music as often as possible and support local musicians.
I like rule #1; but that's about it, from this list. Chris' "hearing as many different systems" would have to be modified to "owning,same"/for me.
Trying horns and set amps taught me a lot. While horns and set-amps have their pros and cons;they taught me a lot about what my previous system wasn't doing. BUT, I had to live with this system for a while and experience it. What I had before set me up for this experience--then what you gained from this helps you on the step after. I guess many don't have to take the baby steps I require. While I am quite happy now, I don't expect I have reached the end of my journey.
I object rule #4 and #3 as well
Instead #3 repeat #5 twice.
#4 replace "speakers" with "phono cartridge"
1. More money doesn't always equal better sound.
2. Before spending a dime, consider the room where the gear is going to be and understand how the room contributes to the final sound at your ears.
3. Think of speakers and amplifiers as one circuit that needs to compliment each other and avoid poor matching characteristics.
4. Proper speaker placement within the room is essential to good sound.
5. More often than not, a change of a component will result in a different sound, not always a better sound. There is almost always a trade off.
1. In six months of buying eggs and stapling the cartons to the wall in your listening room, plus buying a throw rug, you can do more than buying the most expensive cords.
2. The best gear is not always the most expensive, or coolest looking gear.
3. Power conditioners work. Really.
4. If you can't have a conversation about music with your hifi dealer, find another dealer.
5. Reasonable budget, over the longest term.
1. Make sure there really is a record on the spinning platter before you lower the needle.

2. Set up an electric fence around your ribbon speakers before the neighbor kids come over. Don't forget to plug it in.

3. Your speakers should probably cost more than your speaker cables. But not if you plan to upgrade speakers one of these days.

4. Don't let inebriated friends adjust the volume control, especially if they want to crank it up to "see what happens".

5. Don't volunteer your opinion of your friend's shiney new purchase unless he unequivocally asks you to - and even then, remember you might as well be talking about his religion.

It's too bad you had a bad experience with used speakers. I am listening to my Thiel 2.4 speakers at this moment, which I bought used from an Audiogoner and I am totally satisfied with them. Everything I have purchased on Audiogon has worked out very well. Don't give up on the basis of a bad experience. My guess is it was the exception, not the rule.
Schipo, that's why I started the thread as "from your own experiences". I'm sure many have had success with secondhand speakers, but I had one rather costly exercise early on where I bought used speakers (good brand) that I later found out had been tampered with internally (crossovers).
This led to them failing completely after just a few days, and the seller had vanished. They'd sounded fine when I listened prior to buying, although I was in my early stages of learning anout hifi kit then.
1. Don't go crazy money, research or otherwise

2. Go outside when its nice.

3. Invite friends over to enjoy

4. Aesthetically pleasing is important

5. Try to have as few wires as possible
1. Buy a house first. It doesn't matter how good your equipment if you can turn it up to a realistic level.

2. Don't assume that "more costly, more better". So many people think this way that equipment makers are FORCED to inflate their prices to maintain the "better" image or lose market share. If you can't trust your ears, take up golf instead.

3. Don't buy new if you can get it used (typically at a 40-50% discount).

4. Listen to the piece in your system if at all possible. I've purchased after reading a great review and am usually satisfied but it only makes sense to try first.

5. Buy a house first.
I have purchased much if not all my gear on Audiogon and with not a hitch at all. I will always love this site and continue to make future purchases from Audiogon. Also would recommend to all when shipping any gear especially when you do not have the original box. Please make sure you tape as much carboard as possible wrapping it aroung the edges of the equiptment that is to be shipped this will insure a much safer arrival.
I'll remember that in my three quarters of a million median market Dweller. Very helpful. Have you heard of earphones?
Biomimetic: Heard of 'em, don't care for 'em.
What is the "three quarters of a million median market" business? Someone have self-esteem problems?
There are no rules. But a good guideline is to have a clear goal in mind.
1. Trust only your own ears; ignore what other people say, and what scientific claims and/or reasoning is used. Mostly other people only mean well, but the only person having your ears is you. We all experience things differently, and we like different things as well. Besides, what does it matter if science can prove that a certain product is great, if I don't like it? Happens to me all the time.

2. Realize that there is no "best" component and there never will be, much the same as there are no "neutral" components. Might as well strike those two words from your hifi vocabulary!

3. Look at the entire system as an integrated whole, including cables, equipment support, power conditioning, room treatments and so on, and don't get caught up chasing isolated components. Hardware is indeed important, but peripherals even more so. Synergy is everything, and one piece of equipment is only as good as it is in your home, in your particular setup.

4. Make sure you listen to the music you like. There's no point in demoing gear with "hifi records" - most gear sounds fine with these. The real challenge is, will it play your favorite records, and will it play them to your liking? Most high end gear won't like less-than-perfect recordings, but they do exist!

5. Ignore all scientific babble and simply listen. And listen to the music, not the equipment.
1. Experiment at your leisure - try new things and enjoy them while you do.

2. For quite a while, you can look for moments of epiphany - times when you try something and it is just clearly significantly better than before. That's when you should spend your money. If you're having to strain, or listen for days to decide, you should move on.

3. As you system gets better, improvement will be more subtle, but it will still be very clear to you that it's an improvement. Don't "upgrade" because it should be better, upgrade because it is clearly better.

4. Be very clear in your mind that this is a hobby. Like other hobbies that we get avid about, it's too easy to get too serious. Keep it fun.

5. When reading any magazines or online forums, keep all of the above in mind, and don't read if you can't. In their best form, they will educate and inspire experimentation and open-mindedness. In their worst form, they will inspire dissatisfaction and envy.
1)strive for tonal neutrality - use careful synergy to obtain it
2) see live acoustic music to know what instrumentation is meant to sound like
3) research thouroughly, buy used or from a direct manufacturer (Teres/Galibier/Salk/Sora Sounds (ZYX)/AVS are examples) Large companies have huge marketing and middleman charges
4)tame your room first
5)invest in good cables, power supply and isolation
6) loose yourself in the music not the equipment
No - I could probably afford a condo in SF if I wanted to... but, I have this thing about the Chinese supporting American banks with funny money, and housing bubbles popping. Not to mention all the internet tech people who paid with confederate money IPO notes, and are currently going into foreclosure making banks harder and harder to deal with for everyone. Not everyone on 'Gon can though buy a house thoug, or live somewhere like Manhattan and I don't think any audophile company's attitude should be "Screw them". And there are many, many great solutions for apartment dwellers, not the least of which is a thousand dollar pair of headphones and a headamp in the $1000-2000 range, which will, I guarantee, kick the crap out of every $100,000 system on 'Gon. Seriously, you don't like headphones? It was really just sort of a joke - but you know, pro guys wear them for a reason, and they are single unit diaphragm, and the expensive ones go down low and up real high, so they have no crossover problems, and no phase or time coherency problems. With some single ended tube equipment they will knock your socks off even if you're jaded like you or me. It's real, real hard not to like them. It's real real hard to like even a good pair of electrostatics by comparison which come the closest. I was talking as much about space as money.
only 2 rules.......1. one's love of music has nothing to do with equipment or media. 2. one's love of equipment or media has nothing to do with music.
Biomimetic: Thought I detected a note of sarcasm in your post. My apologies.
I actually DO like headphones.
The problem is I like them SO MUCH that I turn 'em WAY UP!
My aging eardrums take days to recover.
This doesn't occur with speakers.

As far as buying the house; I assumed this post was for the youngsters getting into our sport/hobby (spobby?).
I let my passion for the holy grail blind me to first-things-first common sense purchases.
Have you ever heard of the farmer who, having hunger today, ate his seeds instead of planting them?
We know what happened to him some time down the road.
I just wanted to put this out as a warning.
1.- LOVE the Music
2.- Don't trust nobody exept your ears. Exept if they are teaching you and not saling you somthing.
3.- Proportion of expences in a Stero. 35% Speakers, 25% Power amplifer, 20% Preamplifier, 10% CD player & 5% cables. (APROXIMATELY)
4.- Be carful with used equipmet.
1. Don't believe in the HYPE of a particular brand or audio company.
2. Check your hearing with a hearing test.
3. Listen to what you want to buy FIRST.
4. Are you an equipment loving person or a music loving person?
5. You can get a great audio system without spending multiple thousands of dollars.
1. Spend a lot of time performing room measurements (learn how to do it and buy good equipment/sofware), optimize room dimensions and treatment, optimize speaker positioning, optimize listening position, install dedicated power lines, power distribution. Major impact.

2. Get great speakers first, adequate for the type/range of music you like, then think about other components.

3. Don't trust dealers and reviewers (most of them are quite biased) and audiophiles who have a different musical focus/range.  ALWAYS try new equipment and cables in your own system. If you listen and think it is a step back in any way, even though a step forward in some ways, don't buy it. If you think the improvement is too small for the price, don't buy it.

4. Buy used (except cartridges), wait a while if necessary. 

5. Listen to great systems, go to the Munich High End Show, go listen to great audiophile rooms/systems, listen to live music.  So that you find out what you want and have clear references.

6.  Listen to lots of music end enjoy it.  After a certain point, the need to upgrade decreases dramatically because the music seems quite real.

Wow how interesting!!!!!

(1) If one waits for a product that one deems relevant for one's system...waiting for that product to meet a price (low/used) point but will not benefit you in the long run. Buy it, enjoy. Life's short!
(2) Buy what you perceive is in your best interests. Whether it's used or not...waiting could be forever, buying sooner will be beneficial for your own benefit plus you'll have more chance to listen to great music reproduced better in your own home!
(3) Buy lots of music!
(4) Read a lot. Listen a lot. Make your own decisions based upon your own experience!

I forgot... I have one more...
(5) Learn how to listen, learn what to listen for. (Maybe the most important of all).
Biomimetic the trouble with headphones (for me and I assume others as well) is that you can't get a soundstage. The performers aren't performing in front of you, they are in your head!  While this may sound like a good thing, I can't get used to it as I don't find it natural. 


all of your points taken except buying 2nd hand speakers. Nothing wrong w/ this practice so long as you trust the seller.
Yeah…go to the Munich High End show and note the cost of schlepping yourself there is more than you might spend on most components…no problemo! Coming from the school of Experienced Professional Live Sound Tech and Professional Musician plus certified old person Logic Driven Audio Freak (or simply, "EPLSTPMLDAF"), one suggestion is to clean yer ears with the ear wax cleaning kit from the local drug store…been using that stuff for years. Also, ignore the "audio mysticism" as it's utter nonsense…directional fuses, expensive feet for your gear (vibration from sound goes everywhere all the time…get over it…) except maybe to decouple your speakers from a wood floor (spikes don't do that, rubbery things do), and simply be logical about things…remember you have your own taste unless you're some sort of cowardly wimp, which is also OK as the unstable keep the commercial world revolving…listen to live concerts that only I mix as MY taste is impeccable (Julian Lage…miked his tiny old tweed amps and the bass as Wolleson wanted no mics)…there ya go!
I've pretty much broken every rule purported here so I'll simply admit that I keep looking because I'm bored - and curious.  While I'm not quite ready to scribe a "bucket list" for fear of tempting the fates,  there are many pieces of equipment that I want to hear for the sake of comparison,  or just for the hell of it.  Either or,  the end result is the same. 

I'll never be able to afford loudspeakers $20,000 and up so I avoid including those in my quest,  especially since there are many excellent brands well below that available used.  Every speaker that I've bought here came from an owner that cared about them - I've yet to have a problem with buying used speakers.  (Magnepan,  Thiel,  Von Schweikert,  Dynaudio...)  

I've been in the wine business for 33 years now which is as befuddling and subjective as this hobby is.  Most of the cult wines and rarities aren't even consumed by their buyers,  they simply collect them!

Read, listen and learn.
Where ever jaybo went, I miss his positive posts and wisdom.  For example, his post above, "only 2 rules.......1. one's love of music has nothing to do with equipment or media. 2. one's love of equipment or media has nothing to do with music" is just so right on.

Superb wisdom by all participants in this thread. It just so happens I agree with them all. A couple of things I found while on my journey toward  musical nirvana were:

1) If you can buy used from a reputable site such as audiogon, not ebay. I have purchased most of my system used and its always been an improvement and its always been exemplary equipment. Latest purchase were speakers and I could not be happier.

2) Your room is more important than your best piece of equipment

3) Listen with YOUR ears not someone elses. Everybody has different tastes so you are the one living with yours. Trust yourself 1st.

4) The most expensive cable is not necessarily the best for you. I've "downgraded" my cables from very expensive to very reasonable and obtained IMO better sound.

5) Live and Love music, the more genres of music you love the closer you'll be to nirvana.

To end this I'm within hearing distance of Audio Nirvana now (only a few minor tweaks required, I think) but it took 50 years to get here one detail at a time.