Good old days

I remember when I was happy that everything I played on my stereo sounded basically the same,  without a care for soundstagjng and the like. This occurs to me now as I sit in my car enjoying the hell out of everything played.  All I’m thinking about is the music.  Maybe it’s time for me to pack in my high end aspirations.


I would enjoy both listening in the car, and your home system. That's what I do.

I’m unhappy with my penchant for obsessing over SQ, I don’t obsess when listening to the car stereo. I can just sit back and enjoy the music.
Makes me want to consider giving up high end listening at home and go for something simple (even though I have over 20K invested at this point.)

I don’t think I’ll go through with it, but it’s an idea.


Some of us have arrived at the point where we no longer obsess over SQ and love all the audiophile cues that comprise this hobby.

All the best,

Then there are some of us that have a hard time keeping our focus on the music.

Someday it will all click into place. What I found was it's not the investment made but that one piece of kit that brings it all together. 

All the best,

rv, based on the impression left from reading your posts you are clearly a true music lover. You have started several threads which address essentially the same conflict that you struggle with as described in this OP. You clearly struggle with this issue, I first became aware of this conflict when you posted a comment about a recording of a performance that I recommended on your thread of (if memory serves) Mahler, “Das Lied…”. The discussion had been about great performances of this work, not SQ. Yet, I was surprised (to say the least) that you found the recording to be “unlistenable” due to the quality of the sound. An amazing performance with SQ that, to me, on a scale of 1-10 is a 6, maybe even a 7.  Certainly high enough to let the music carry the day in spite of less than fantastic SQ.

IMO, you don’t need to give up your stereo.

In another recent thread you described how you enjoy music more when listening “casually” and not analyzing the sound, I found this curious. Music can be enjoyed to its fullest, not by “casual” listening, but by serious listening… the music, not the sound. You, like many of us audiophiles have a penchant for analyzing. So, why not scratch the analysis itch with the music instead of the sound? My suggestion would be to take a course or more on music theory, orchestration or music history, dig deep into the history of favorite composers. There is so much to learn that one can’t learn from liner notes. You play piano. Start taking lessons again. Some feel that analysis of the music detracts from the emotional involvement, I believe that is nonsense. The more one learns about music the more one enjoys it.

Good luck.




I believe that formal analysis can detract from musical enjoyment. I believe one intuitively analyzes by extended listening.
I probably misled by using the term “casual listening”. A better term is relaxed listening. Certainly being actively involved in the music is paramount. That is achieved best when I’m relaxed. 
‘Although I have a Masters in piano from Juilliard and a PhD in music theory and history from NYU, I got my musical inspiration and love of classical music as a child listening to radio stations in New York. I always endeavor to recover that feeling. 
  Expressing myself through this forum has been helpful to me in diagnosing the pitfalls of sound addiction.  I also hope it relates to others who have the same experience.

I don’t mean to burst your bubble. But before you hang up your HI-FI boots you might want to consider a different type of speaker. A simple British 2 way BBC design might be the ticket. Spendor, Harbeth, Graham are some that just might get you off the Merry-Go-Round that you have been on all these years!!

I think you’re on the right track.  
I pity the fool who sacrifices the beauty, wonder, and splendor of music to obsess over Audio Nervosa.  
If that is indeed the case, screw it.  
Life’s too short.  Music is too good.  
Good sound is good and all, but it’s not better than music.

rvpiano, I can relate. When you read reviews, a good sound system is supposed to have a wide soundstage, depth, layering, etc. So when we listen to our own systems we tend to listen for those things, cause we get programmed to do so. However, we don't care about those things with car stereos, portable players, etc. I often admire how good my Alexa speaker sounds. I don' worry about how it sounds because I don't expect much. Not the case when you spend thousands on a sound system.

First, I want to applaud you for posting about this issue. It's a vulnerable topic to post about, and given some of the replies that emerge on this forum, you take risks in order to hear from others. Bravo.

As you know, given your education, most of the music enjoyed in the world and, over time, has been experienced in ways that would not be defined as "serious listening." One thinks of the salons of Europe, table music, liturgical music, tribal music, party music, driving music, cooking music, romantic music. Yes, there are occasions when attention is paid in analytical or serious or immersive ways, but those are not the rule, those are exceptions.

For me, your question branches in two directions:

1. Can you divorce your own attitude about music from its monogamous commitment to "serious" listening? It sounds like you need a way to "flip a switch" — or as we used to say, "chill out," when desired.

2. What might you add or change in your system to help with #1? I think the suggestion of different speakers might be the way to go.

I recently listened to some Stenheim speakers. They were quite amazing, and did some things my speakers (1/10th the cost) couldn't do. But more than anything else, this system was different. It was "fine dining" as opposed to a delicious "home cooked meal." I like the latter, better — comfort food and comfortable circumstances — all done with care, excellently. 

Maybe that's what you really want to move to — aural comfort food, done well.

yogiboy and Hilde45,

Listening to a speaker that doesn’t do “magic tricks” with soundstaging might well be the way to go. Getting my mind off of the artifacts of sound can only be a good thing in listening to MUSIC.



I can see how involving myself in musical endeavors might get me more involved in the music.

Don’t do it.  Don’t chuck the stereo away.  I moved to Germany for a few years to work there.  I left the stereo system packed away and used a Sony receiver for 2 1/2 years.  I even bought some B&W P6 speakers in downtown Stuttgart and I liked them.  (In a coyote ugly sort of way).  Once back home with my stereo the sound was glorious!  I had sure missed my stereo.

It can get expensive, but the best thing is to get out and hear some other systems- either in people’s homes or at some stereo shops.  Get an idea what you like and try to match that sound in your home system. Plenty of tips and tricks on these forums.  Sometimes the little things can make a big difference.

For many years in the past I would think about what a new amp, turntable or speaker would sound like while listening to music.  That is not very satisfying.  So first thing in my retirement I visited a few shops and Axpona and then I broke open the piggy bank and revamped the whole thing.  Now I’m like a kid at Christmas every time I turn on the stereo- for now…


It isn’t that I don’t like the sound of my system, the problem is I like it too much.

Of the speakers I have heard that were simple, engaging, inviting, and non-analytical, nothing has really beat Fritz's Carbon 7 SE Mk. II 

It is not his most expensive speaker, but there was something it did that just pushed past audiophile thinking, straight into the music. I auditioned it for 6 months and then sent it back. Now, many speakers later, I realize that there was something he did with that speaker that is kind of magical. Just a thought.

Seems to me that the problem is not your system; especially if, as you say, you “like it too much”.  By starting to change out gear in order to find the new “right” gear you will just be feeding the monster.  If you like your current system so much it is unlikely that you will be happy with equipment that sounds less good.  The issue is your mindset.  A lot of my listening is outside the “sweet spot”.  Try, as I do, listening off axis.  Put your comfy listening chair somewhere in the room where you are not forced to look at all those audio toys, the sight of which triggers the audiophile itch.  Get out of electronic land.  See what happens.  


You are so right. …the beauty, wonder, and splendor of music” is the thing.  The love of Hifi  pales in comparison. 

My bet is that you don't love your system

I remember doing the same thing—always listening for the good bits and always aware of the bad bits in the reproduction chain. 

Eventually, over many tweaks, things clicked. Now I have no issues listening and everything sounds wonderful. Something is amiss and you need to locate it. 

When I listen in my car, or through earbuds when traveling, music can also be very enjoyable.  It is definitely more enjoyable when I get home and plop down in front of my hifi though.  It seems like its not really important to choose between the two, we can jiust enjoy what we are doing at the time.

@rvpiano ..I got my musical inspiration and love of classical music as a child listening to radio stations in New York. I always endeavor to recover that feeling.
Expressing myself through this forum has been helpful to me in diagnosing the pitfalls of sound addiction. I also hope it relates to others who have the same experience.


We are similar in some ways.

I can relate as I sit here right now listening to "Any Colour Your Like" Dark Side of the Moon 50th Anniversary Remastered. The stuff I grew up with, as you noted, "listening to radio stations" in Northern California. 98.5 KZAP it was. Is the new remaster/reproduction of the old album better, maybe, I don’t know. Listening right now as I type this, awaiting the next random song to pop up on the lossless 16bit streaming service I use for the music itself more than the most transparent sound.

Yep - There are days I want to take all of the amps, devices, cables, and simply box it all up and put it away in the rafters for a couple years, or just get rid of all of it, and go back to simple radio tabletop system just to listen to the music, as you do in your car.

I recently bought a new car, there were two levels, this time around bought the car which had the next-level-down audio system almost for similar reasons - to just listen to music. It’s "good enough", sounds nice, back to music. Is simple, better? Maybe.

Perhaps I had a split brain some days where the complexity of it with my former-version larger main system would not allow me to sit and listen to the music more than the components. I’ve tried to come up with ways to effectively "reverse the clock" so to speak. Slowly inching back to that former familiar sound with tweaks.

There are a few ways I tried to deal with this same type of thinking and mental blocks. Maybe my system had gotten to the point where it became too transparent at one point. I lost some of the magic you mentioned when we could just sit and listen to the music. At first I could not figure it out very well. Was it me, the gear, the newer recordings, my hearing. Again, different ideas for each of us. dealing with it in different ways - I’ll share what I did, maybe one idea for you somewhere:

  • Went back to building speakers with a familiar sound closer to what I remembered growing up. Other members mentioned similar ideas.
  • Other sources, like you I missed that radio growing up. Some days I enjoy firing up my Magnum Dynalab FM Tuner, sounds glorious. Fun.
  • For streaming, I have an audiophile critical listening play list. When that’s on, I do tend to do more critical listening. Other lists I’ve created are "all music", it triggers something to simply "enjoy" music.
  • Cables - the cable naysayers will thrash me about this. I’m an OCD cable nut. Tried too many. Went back to a cable designer I grew up with, recapturing the "comfort food" thought mentioned. Like it more.
  • Tubes - I won’t go there, plenty of threads on this topic, separately.
  • Recently picked up an older backup SS amplifier, had it refreshed, upgraded it. Rotating through in once in a while. I intentionally went back to an older design, older output OPTs, full-true class A 50w. It does trigger older memories, trigging some old synapses maybe. :)
  • DAC: if you play digital, I grew painfully tired of hi-rez content and hi-rez dacs. Went back to a non-over-sampling 16/44 NOS dac, done.

@hilde45 touched on something about the little speakers he cannot seem to forget. My take is its the "music" that grabbed him with those particular speakers. And, my other random thought about all of this situation, sometimes "less" is "more". :)

I now believe some of this has to do with the sounds we grew up with, and what we remember most about our own type of feel-good music. Maybe I don’t like overly transparent systems as much as I originally hoped, some times a little imperfection is "okay!" And, the famous quote, "don’t let perfect be the enemy of good". 🤔




Thanks for your detailed response. I see the similarities between us.
I’m now not so sure however that the nature of my system is the problem. I’m thinking that perhaps, as frogman suggests, relocating myself in the listening space, so that imaging is not a factor, may help considerably.
Also, for the times I’m really into the music, the good qualities of the set may enhance my enjoyment.

we are all sitting on the curve of diminishing returns, in different spots. Think about what else you could do with the money, and what would make you happier, 

You have a great system and you obviously know how to enjoy music with or without cardas cables, that's what matters the most.

Post removed 

@rvpiano ...relocating myself in the listening space, so that imaging is not a factor, may help considerably.


It’s interesting you mention this.

A tube amp buddy who geeked out for decades on several different designs of tube amps and large hoards of tube collections, has a saying an old mentor told him once "at the end of the day, it’s just your stereo".

Sometimes I do get a kick out of SG’s videos. The simpleton videos he does once in a while can be refreshing too. One video he sort of came out and said, forget all of the fancy room formulas, "try sitting closer, or spread your speakers out, just try different things". And, everyone’s room is different anyhow. Easy, low cost, fun. Try the simple stuff first. I'm going back to this mindset myself now. 

As long as we don’t take it too seriously, should be just fine.

Use some of the discipline you mustered when getting your Masters and PhD and train your mind to enjoy the music and the sound.  Music can sound truly beautiful and it can also just be beautiful, but you already know that.

Good luck.

@ebm Pack it in ASAP.


Reminder to my future self - when I get to a point of four word unhelpful forum replies, this will be my signal to stop monitoring this site and bail out for sure. 😆

To be sure, there’s absolutely nothing better than when music and sound come together to produce a wondrous effect.

**** relocating myself in the listening space, so that imaging is not a factor, may help considerably. ****

If one gets to the point where one is ready to go back to listening to music on a simple radio, then why not simply think of your rig as a great super high quality radio. Screw imaging and listen for musical expression, tonality, rhythmic nuance and interplay…. music. It will all still be there, but without the distraction of the expectation of “depth”, “perfect channel balance”, “image stability”, etc.


Pack it in ASAP.

Perhaps good advice for some posters, here. Don't take it too personally, though! You're always contributing the best advice! Keep it up, buddy! Everyone loves your comments!

Reminder to my future self - when I get to a point of four word unhelpful forum replies, this will be my signal to stop monitoring this site and bail out for sure.

Or find the mouth of an open volcano.

Look into headphone. I am like you and a speaker lover and a music lover above all else.

I had a similar problem with my tube amp, although it sounded amazing, I was just never happy knowing that I have to replace the expensive tubes, time unknown. That bugged me and I couldn’t be happy long-term with it.

The Meze Elite headphone sounds phenomenal with any type of music plugged into any components. It has insane musicality.

If you want something to simply enjoy music and not worry about ANYTHING, The Meze Elite has my highest recommendation. You certainly don’t have to worry about equipments and room treatments. It’s also a plus that it is supremely comfortable.

Check out the RAAL SR1a with even a $300 Shitt Jotenhuim R headphone amp (if still sold). You could also use your 2-channel amps (with al lot of power), or for reference level sound, the RAAL VM-1a headphone amp. 

I doubt there is a better headphone at any price that can compare with this. I used to have the Meze Empy. I loved it but it is like a 1/10 compared to the 10/10 Sr1a.

The negative comments that you will hear about this is that it does not look like a headphone (funny looking) nor does it sound like headphones. For me the looks do not matter and the fact that it does not sound closed in like headphones, but open like 2-channel, is a massive feature not a bug.

What you have is 2-channel sound WTHOUT a room to deal with.

Audio Nervosa is truly like a chronic disease. There are periods of time when I’m totally discombobulated, not able to listen to music for music itself, and then there are periods when it all comes together. Those  former periods are debilitating but the latter periods are magnificent.

I stand by my previous suggestion about the relocation of your listening chair.  I would also suggest that Audio Nervosa is a manifestation of a certain personality type (I am one of those) that needs to have things be just so.  It is the quest for exactitude in various endeavors; an itch that needs to get scratched, so to speak.  What are your other interests besides music?  Try satisfying that itch by active participation in other things/hobbies that require a similar type of involvement.  This may very well ease the need to have the “ear candy” aspect of sound be just so and allow you to focus more on the music.  


 You are so right.  Our training as musicians ingrains in us a quest for perfection.  Which leads to a pretty good stereo system but also the impossible quest for perfect sound.

As an experiment convert your system to a mono setup.  See if you like it any better.

RV, I don't know whether or not this will be helpful but I'm familiar with your listening issues, suffering from them to some extent myself. Historically speaking I've thought that 'depth of image' was the final measure of the quality of the stereo experience. For years I've focused on having the front of my speakers at least 6 ft from the wall. Got a nice 'airy' sound and pretty fair DOI. I accepted this and spent my time trying to get the right tonality. Very recently I got really experimental, for me at least, and decided to move my speakers back towards the wall. I've gone from 76" to 45". I've maintained my triangle, 10 ft apart and 11ft from chair. What I got was, for my purposes anyway, amazing. A much more focused, solid, mid-range and an overall more natural sound, not so airy and a bit of loss of DOI, but, and this was a real surprise, the tonality improved! Now when I play music the audio aspects no longer dominate my attention, the music does. FWIW.

BTW, Listening in mono might replicate your car experience but I doubt that you'd be happy in your room. Your preamp has a 'mono' option, you could try. Also, since your CJ also has two outputs, you could get a second pair of speakers and amp (small and cheap) and put them elsewhere in your room, somewhat close together and listen to them in mono.  Much as I like frogman's comments about getting out of the sweet spot, perhaps doing so and having a mono option/second set of speakers would be the best. Lastly, FWIW, you've been listening to, and participating in I'm sure,  music which is well understood and appreciated. When I listen to that music now on my system I try to avoid playing music which is less than involving lest I start listening to 'audio'. Most of my listening now is to music I'm less familiar with so I can listen to the music or the 'audio' depending on the music and/or recording, what ever. :-)


Good topic. And, comments.

I have found that my scale of "critical listening" is environmental and/or task related. I am grateful when some reasonable fascilime of a musical experience is available where I am. Having music present is, and always has been, important to me. My attention to the music, thus involvement depends on where I am, and what I am doing. It can range from "musical wallpaper" to "fully engaged and emotionally attached to the performance".


While Driving: avoiding a catastrophic kinetic event is more important than the music. So, being "distracted" by other vehicles weaving in and out of traffic is not a bad thing. Music gets demoted, as it should. By, the way, car audio systems can be very enjoyable. There’s something to be said for near-field listening in a quality system. Kinda like listening to a decent set of headphones -- while the bass gives you a pretty good back/butt massage.

Patio: Conversation takes center stage. As long as the music doesn’t suck, life is good. A "minimally engaging" experience appeals to guests.

Boat House: The esthetics and sounds of lake living fill the senses. 20-year-old (highly modified) Bose 301s are "good enough".

Office: ADS 200s with custom-built subwoofer, powered by hybrid vacuum tube/SS amp. It looks really cool, and sounds "okay" with good sources. The problem is that I like music a little too much and can’t get any work done when ANY presence of music is there. So,the music is OFF when I am working.

Home Theater: Someone wrote a story. Someone (maybe the author) wrote a screen play. Others wrote music, provided props, wardrobe, sound effects. Did the author’s story get told, and was it somewhat believable in my space? If the answer is "yes", it met the objectives.

Main System: Turn down the lights. Reduce ambient noise and other distractions. Grab enough beverage to make it through atleast one album side. Strap myself in, and listen -- critically. Arriving at a space in time where the energy and presence of someone’s musical contribution is playing out in my listening room is most gratifying. Don’t spend much effort thinking about -- what if? Maybe tommorrow? But not today. Just having way too much fun.


you are simply tired of manic pedantry ... you are an "addict" of this passion and the treatment is difficult.
Also (sometimes) people get hungry - they want something real but they can't find it...
In English, there is practically nothing serious on this topic ... try listening to these materials ... there are few of them, but somewhere there were recordings of a program that was broadcast on the BBC and hosted by this man.

I’m talking about being a sound addict.
And yes it’s a terrible thing.
I get a lot of help in this forum.

What were you thinking?

Rvpiano i agree listening to my car stereo, it’s more exciting because it’s more quiet especially if you close all the windows.