Have you "lied" to yourself?

It is time for the utmost honesty. How many of you have made a fairly costly upgrade/purchase and weren't able to hear any difference (even if you struggled, it wasn't very obvious), but convinced yourself the difference was there (to avoid feeling embarrassed/taken, or facing that you don't have "golden ears")?

There's no need to mention the brand/manufacturer, but do mention the type of component as it would be interesting to see whether this type of thing happens more often with preamps, amps, cables, or sources (I doubt it ever happens with speakers).

I'll start. I'm guilty of spending about $600 upgrading speaker my cables and couldn't hear much of a difference.
I've upgraded cables a couple of times and usually could hear the difference but not always for the better. Cables are system dependent--so more costly does not necessarily mean better sound. Don't think I've "lied" to myself--or to the people I've sold them to. They were good cables--just not in my system.
let them break in and then remove them, I often put pieces in my system that I do not think are worth the money until I take them out and hear it without them
I agree with Mkaes. Aside from speaker upgrades that I have made, I have never really noticed big differences until I have taken OUT the new components and replaced them with the old. It's always so profoundly disappointing to spend several thousand dollars and not notice a difference right away.
I bought one of those "noise killers" that you plug into any outlet and it supposed to reduce line noise. Well, maybe I didn't have any line noise to kill!? But for wasting $300, the line noise from my wife was deafening.
There's no need to feel guilty about it. You spent the money and it didn't work out the way you hoped.

I have spent money on amps and speakers that didn't work out. Items have been or will be sold.

What I did learn was it helps to buy used. Your financial hit is much less if you need to sell the item. Also, in-home trials can prevent the purchase in the first place.

So, do the proper break-in with your cable. If it doesn't make you happy then sell it and move on.
Yes, I have tried many things that did not work, but they were all either on home demo or a 30 day trial. The few things that I have purchased outright without audition fortunately did work out (and I am not fooling myself about this). Eventually, I will foul up though, perhaps on the purchase that I just made of a product with very little feedback available on it.
Lie to myself? I have the best wife and kids in the world. Even if they're in jail!

Now the audio. Nope, never bought a piece of equipment that wasn't better than the last.

I make perfect decisions. It's my ears that are the problem.

Bill E.
All the time! I buy used for that very reason. Hopefully I can resell it for close to what I paid if I find it not useful in my system. Anyone want some power cords, interconnects, speaker wire, cones, shelving or power conditioners? I have a few to share!
No, but I have lied to my wife how much my gears costs. Gosh I hope she's not reading this.
Here's a list of upgrades and the differences I noticed, by category:


Luxman integrated to Bryston 4B NRB -- HUGE

Bryston 4B to Bryston 7B-ST -- sound difference was noticeable, esp. in highs, biggest difference was that I never clipped again


Luxman integrated to Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 -- HUGE, although this happened at the same time as the Bryston 4B, so tough to seperate one upgrade from the other

SFL-1 to Melos SHA-Gold -- (done to get remote control) -- not a vast improvement in sound, but WOW, what a headphone amp!

Melos to Rogue 99 (done to get phono without losing headphone capability) -- pleasant upgrade, but again, not vast, as the Melos was a very nice sounding unit


crap to Cardas microtwin interconnects-- some difference, not much

Cardas Microtwin to Tara Decade -- unbelievable. Turned me into a "cables are components" convert. After the initial upgrade from the Luxman to seperates, this was the biggest difference in my audio system

one interesting note -- my big system is temporarily in storage, and I am again using the Luxman integrated. I inserted the Tara Decade for the crappy IC I was using, and the difference was noticeable, but not 1/10th as dramatic as with better components.


crap to Monster -- little diff.

Monster to Kimber 8TC -- terribly disappointing. I am not a Kimber fan after this big expense with little to show.

Kimber 8TC to Tara MGII -- pleasant change. I guess Tara and I are a good match, although I still feel like there is a better cable looming in my future.


Kenwood to Micromega 2 -- nice change, but the Kenwood is a pretty good unit, so it wasn't a vast difference

Micromega to Meridian 508-24. Blackness. The background noise level went to nearly zero.


ADS monitors to Hales Rev 3's. WOW.

I just sold the Hales as I no longer have an appropriately sized room, and I will be travelling for the next chunk of my life, but boy, they are an amazing speaker. Poor Paul Hales -- who would have thought that Wadia would screw him over so badly. He is a talented man, and I am certain we haven't heard the last from him (pun intended).

When I am back in the US and in another decent house, I will be shopping again for speakers, expecting that the biggest change in sound comes with different speakers. Maybe a minimonitor? Maybe planars? Maybe Hales will be back in business then....

BOTTOM LINE: The better your system, the less ability there is for an upgrade to matter. That said, if I were to recommend places to upgrade, they would be AMP first (clean power can't be beat), IC's next, SPEAKERS next, and assuming that your cd and preamps are decent, I'd do these last. At least, that was my experience in terms of sound quality difference per dollar.
I followed an initially dissapointing trail that, now having walked it, I am still not sure where I came out. In the course of a week or so, I retubed all my gear with NOS stuff, added a power condidioner and made a major upgrade in my speaker cables. First was the power conditioner, didn't hear that much of a difference at all, if at all (although my gear now remains constant when the lights flicker, which they do a lot--so I suppose it was worth it for that, if nothing else). Then I retubed everything (just CD and preamp, so not THAT much of an expense). There were noticible (if only barely) differences, but more in the lines of subtle characteristics, hardly a jump in quality. All in all, nothing that special. Then I swapped in the new cables (from junk to something considerably better than junk). Wow. A huge difference, more or less blew me away. I would have never believed that cables could make such a difference had I not heard (or believed I heard, though I'll stand by--or between--my ears on this one) it for myself.

However, in retrospect, I have now managed to convince myself that the huge jump in quality that I heard with the cables was more due to that fact that the old ones were simply that bad, not so much that the new one were that great. To clarify, I've convinced myself that both the power conditioner and the new tubes also lent huge improvements to the system, only that I was unable to appreciate it until I got the weak link (the old cables) out of the system and put something in that was more equal to the task. Thus, (or so the rationalization goes) all three additions contributed equally to the improvement, though it was only with the last one that it all came together. No, I never re-swapped or reversed the order to see if there is any truth in that, but, truth be told, I think I prefer my little post hoc fiction. So, in conclusion, no -- never made a bad purchase...(and you just watched me lie to myself).
Thanks Mezmo. I appreciate your candor. This thread isn't meant to make people humiliate themselves or anything, just to show us that it's not THAT rare to want to hear differences after dropping some cash (even if you have to struggle).
I spent $500.00 on power cables. Having a hard time justifing that one. But your probably right, if I pulled them out and went stock. I would here the difference. That is the only upgrade I can think of that did not seam worth it.
Rosstaman: The noise hound was the one component I bought that made no difference when I plugged it in. I left it in anyway. When I removed it a while later, boy did the sound degrade. So I agree with Mkaes and KutisJeffers
Like some of the others, i play the used market heavily. I have been able to check out a LOT of gear this way with nowhere near the expenditure levels that new gear would require.

One case that stands out in my mind was when i first picked up a new SS preamp. This particular piece is getting good reviews and is being heavily pushed by several different dealers. I was comparing it to another SS preamp that was originally designed in 1974 or 1975. While i can hear all of the "audiophiles" starting to choke, weaze and spit out their drinks at the mention of a piece of SS gear that it that old, there was NO comparison. The "antique" easily beat it in every aspect. The old timer was much cleaner and quicker, had better pace, more detail, smoother sounding, far more cohesive, etc... The only thing that the "up & comer" offered was a greater amount of bass. Only problem with that though is that the bass was slower and less defined. Needless to say, the "newcomer" went into the "spare components" section that i keep on hand. I wasn't drastically upset, as i had (once again) purchased this piece used for a very good price. Even if i did end up selling it, i wasn't going to get hurt on it.

After sitting for a month ( or two or three ), i decided to give it another shot. If it didn't do well this time, out the door it was going. Just for kicks, i took it over to my brothers house. We listened to his system as it was and then popped the "newcomer" into the system. Same results as last time. While this could be due to the fact that he is running the same preamp that i compared it to originally, the rest of the system ( sources, amps, cables, speakers, etc...) are COMPLETELY different. I figured it was time for this preamp to find a new home.

Out of sheer necessity, i half heartedly tucked the "newcomer" into the rack in one of my other systems. I had recently sold the preamp that i was running there and i figured that i could use this one as a temporary fill in. WOW !!! With the "newcomer" in there, it was the best that i had ever heard this system sound. By a LONG shot too.... NO comparison. Needless to say, it's still sitting in that same spot. Just goes to show that there IS magic in some specific combos. Even if you think "this thing is not that hot", it may work like gangbusters in another system or for someone else.

Cables work about the same way for me. While it may not "jive" in one system, they might work somewhere else. Most pieces aren't really "bad", they're just "different". I learned a long time ago that unless something is REALLY bad and just flat out "sucks", chances are you can find a spot SOMEWHERE that it will really shine. It's just a matter of finding that specific combo of components that brings out its' best before you end up selling it at a loss or giving it away just to minimize the clutter. Then again, having a "clutter" can sometimes come in handy : ) Sean
Well...In this hobby? ...Who do you believe?...I did find
that a power conditioner improved the bass sound...I live
in Barrington NH...on a dirt road...and there must be a lot
of power surges...I just keep trying different things...One
up grade that worked out well for me was to connect another
reciever with an aux and connect two pair of speakers...one
set of speakers is only 4 inches from the ceiling...I like
the sound...plus I can control them with balance and tone
controls independently from my main speakers...I can now do
a lot more fine tuning....I can create the sweet spot.
Well...In this hobby? ...Who do you believe?...I did find
that a power conditioner improved the bass sound...I live
in Barrington NH...on a dirt road...and there must be a lot
of power surges...I just keep trying different things...One
up grade that worked out well for me was to connect another
reciever with an aux and connect two pair of speakers...one
set of speakers is only 4 inches from the ceiling...I like
the sound...plus I can control them with balance and tone
control..independently from my main speakers...I can create
a nice sweet spot any where in the room..Tony
One problem I notice is that the parts are so interconnected (no pun) that it's hard to 'pick' the thing that is stil holding the system back. If I buy a better interconnect and don't notice the difference today.. when i get a better preamp and switch from new to old interconnects I hear a world of diference. So I have a hard time with the idea that every change must be heard immediatly... Some are groups of things that add up to a better sound, and any one changed back to the old part and oops no more quality sound.
You need to have a pair of excellent trained ears to notice the subtle differences........ When I was a young audiophile, I didn't hear any differences when comparing different equipments. Now I gain more experience, I can detect any subtle changing within the system when I changed something. If you can't hear it, it don't mean there is no change..........
Here's where I've seen differences rated on a scale of 1 to 10(10 indicating the biggest impact):

Speakers: Anyone who can't hear major differences between speakers may as well just get those cute little Bose cubes as they take up next to no space. This, in my opinion, is the cornerstone of any system and will make the largest impact on the overall sound. I chose Soliloquy 5.3s for their detail, soundstaging, musicality, and ability to disappear in a room. Rating: 10

Preamp: I think since they act on relatively small signals that then get amplified, I hear quite a big difference between preamps. That said, I've had a Rotel pre/pro for years and have been looking to upgrade, but nothing I've yet tried has blown it out of the water, especially when price is taken into consideration. Other preamps have been better, but not by enough to make me switch--but I also think the Rotel(laugh if you must) is an over-achiever in holding its own vs. some high-end products. Rating: 9

CD/DAC: Started with a decent one-box CD player and added an MSB Link DAC which significantly improved the sound. Then got an EVS Millennium DAC and I got my first dose of what true transparency is all about. Right up there with preamps in importance to overall system. Rating: 9

Amp: Although obviously very important, I've found smaller relative differences in amps(at around the same price point) than the above components. That said, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and if the amp is weak or doesn't synergize with the rest of your system it will hold you back. I upgraded from an NAD amp to a McCormack DNA-0.5 Rev. A and it really helped bring my system together. Rating: 8

Interconnects: Differences were immediately obvious between similarly priced interconnects, especially silver vs. copper. Like preamps, I think since they operate on small signals that then get amplified, any impact gets magnified too. I chose DH Labs BL-1 Series II. Rating: 8

Speaker cables: Here's where the brutal part of my honesty comes in. I've been living with some of the original Monster Cable with bare ends(single run) for over 20 years and have been hot to replace them. Problem is, every time I try something I can't hear any damn difference. I've tried cables up to $1000/8ft. and even bi-wired, and still no appreciable difference, but I'm sure they do make a difference so I'll keep trying. For now I'd have to say this is the last component I would focus on in my system. Rating: 2

As you can tell from my equipment my system is more toward the revealing side than the warm/lush side, which makes it even more puzzling to me that I don't hear significant differences with speaker cables. Just shows that everyone's system is different, and changes in individual components will affect each system in a unique way. Bottom line: there are no short cuts around trial and error to optimizing a system--but the art of discovery is part of the fun of this hobby anyway, right?

Attend LIVE performances; preferrably but not necessarily acoustic!!!!!!

Live music. Live music. Live music.Live music. Live music. Live music. Live music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Once apon a time, in a world since forgotten, I lent a power amp to my brother. His stuff at the time was nothing much to talk about, but his little int. amp had clips to separate the pre and power. The amp we inserted was nothing to get worked up about either, but it was much more powerful.
My brother was, in a word, underwhelmed. Where was the huge improvement, the next great level of musical satisfaction? Sure it could play a little louder, but whats the big deal?
The lesson did not reveal itself until months later, when I had to take the amp back. It wasnt long before he called to tell me that he NEEDED to upgrade his amp.
It was suddenly clear that the amp made a much bigger impact on his system than he had ever realized. He said that his system HAD sounded better, even at lower listening levels. The amp was gone and his music was missing something he had never been aware of.
That is when I learned how first impressions can be deceiving, and if you want to know if a change was for the better, you have to live with it for a while. And then live without it.
Dont it always seem to go...
I'm enjoying the posts, but I think most everyone has gotten off topic. In typical audiophile form, folks are telling stories about how THEY can tell the difference in upgrades, how they appreciate subtle changes, etc. Can’t people get off the golden-ear high horse and expose a past disappointment after dropping some cash?

I was asking for postings from those of you that have added something, heard no difference, but wished you did. Those who are above this need not post condescending messages. I'm not claiming that this phenomenon happens to everyone, but I was hoping to hear from those honest folks who have experienced this.

Analogy: you buy a very expensive bottle of highly regarded wine from a great vintage. The reviews have given the bottle scores of 99 points. You open it up and you don’t like it, but you search for characteristics in it that make it great.
Howdy gang - long time lurker, first time poster. Before this bug bit(and he takes BIG bites) I would have laughed if somebody told me they gave 4 beans for a power cord. Well, just plugged in my first Black Mamba yesterday, and in my book, that puppy really flows the juice! Added clarity is amazing - a simple bell "ring" made me a believer. System presence also is definitely improved - and, hey, even if it's all just an illusion - it's only money, right? (And if all else failed, I coulda' gotten by with only the physical "WOW" factor).

Provided the above offering suffices, may I now ask for help? I want to run a dedicated circuit to the system - are there any particular brands of wire/breakers any better than the standard fare, and should the ground be separate from the house. All thoughts appreciated! Best regards...Tburn
P.S. Sorry Felthove, just read your latest and I failed to produce. But in all honesty, every additional purchase (so far) has made a positive contribution. Course, I ain't no audiophile w/ the golden ears, and I'm sure the guys w/ the big rigs will no doubt reach the point of diminishing returns. But I'm having a helluva good time trying to get there! Rock on (the wife doesn't get my new love of Krall, Sara K, et al :-) but Bob Seger is only a button away)
Short story. Way back in 86, boys and girls a small local Halifax dealer had the most gorgeous stand mounted pair of Angstrom Reference speakers. They were to be my first "Hi-fi" speakers. Two-way front-ported bass-reflex they were a piece of furniture, at least to me, and I couldn't wait to buy them and get them home....I had them proudly setting in the living-roon when my nephew came in, set down and we started to listen. "Where's the tweeter"? He asked and walked over, put his ear to the speaker, and said, boy are these dull....I lived with them for about 4 months and finally sold them. The tweeter rolled off way too much....but, gosh, were they pretty...ya, my first big lie, and I had to admit I made a big goof. These were very univolving duds....cheers, Bluenose
If you can not try before you buy.Don't buy.
if you buy before you try Don't cry.
Use your ears man.Listen to people,try out for yourself.Then you decide.
The enjoyments of stereo equiptments stuff are learning from people, searching,trying ,listenning for improvent of your system with less money.Fun Fun Fun ...Lot of fun...:)
Good luck,
Felthove - two problems with getting many responses to your main question. First, a lot of the people on this site utilize the buy-used approach to trying things out, knowing that they can get out relatively cheaply if it doesn't work out. Hence, they don't have the financial incentive to "lie" to themselves. Second, if somebody does search for justification of an expensive, under-performing purchase, it may still be in progress.

I knowingly fall into the first category - can't tell you on the second. So far I've experimented a great deal, but rejected everything that cost any significant amount of money that didn't make a fairly large quality improvement. Since I've bought a lot of the equipment used, I just sell what didn't make a big enough difference to justify the cost and don't think twice about it.

Interesting question, though. I think your wine analogy shows that there are many areas where this question fits. I bought a floor-model Proton television set one time at a deep discount compared to it's list price, but not compared to a nice Toshiba or something. The picture struck me as great at the shop. Over the first month, I realized the picture was pretty horrible most of the time, but I had spent money impulsively and could have spent less and gotten more. It took me quite a while to admit to myself that it was a waste, get rid of it and get something decent. Such is life. -Kirk

yes, i've *upgraded*, & heard no improvements. mostly w/interconnects. but, as i have yet to drop really big money on 'em, i really am not too upset about it. regarding component upgrades, as i usually buy used or close-out, no need to lie here, either - yust sell it & move on. at the end of last year, it took me 4 preamps to finally settle on the right one. sold the 1st three for yust about what i paid for 'em...

doug s.

OK, i had some NEAR M10 speakers that disappointed. I had been impressed by the 50s and expected better. Paid little and sold them even cheaper. I experienced little discomfort and was back on my feet in no time.
Felthove; as you've already discovered, you've asked a tricky question, and maybe expected predictable responses to it that you're not getting? I'm not trying to be confrontational here either-- just want to present my observations re your thread.

But the question still brings forth some valuable info, ie that audiophiles are intelligent and do not BS themselves. Almost all have admitted to making purchase mistakes, but they do something about it rather than lie to themselves and say it's "great". I have made purchases, even some large ones, where I have been disappointed in the music quality, but I don't keep the product, lie to myself and say it's good when it's not-- just because it cost a lot.

As others have said above, I try something and if it doesn't work out, I sell it and move on, afterall, that's what searching for the "ultimate" in recorded music quality/character (upgrading) is all about, no?. Cheers. Craig
I totally agree with your point. Thanks.
Felthove, I recently bought another CA-400 amp and use it with my existing CA-400 as monoblocks-I was on power trip. Was thinking look at thoes big ass Monsters, a la Krell Monoblocks. Listened for two weeks imagining great improvement, but was missing my single amp sound. Power trip mad me lie to myself. I am using the extra amp for surrounds.
Are you wanting us to name products or just relay that we have been bummed out about some of our purchases ??? I can't see anyone spending cash and keeping something that is FAR below their expectations. As such, i agree with Garfish. If it's THAT bad, it's either going out the door or back to the dealer.

I don't know of anyone that has purchased more than a few pieces of gear that DOESN'T have some type of "horror story" or "big disappointment" that they could tell you about. Great reviews for products that are "junk" happen every month. The only problem is that, while they might be "junk" to you in your system, someone else absolutely LOVES them. I have encountered this first-hand and i'm sure others have also. Obviously, there are MAJOR differences in personal taste and system configurations.

While dozens of people and several reviewers say "yes, Brand XYZ is truly fabulous for the money", i'm thinking, "that was the worst thing i ever bought. How could ANYONE live with that crap ???". NOBODY knows what will work best in EVERY system. This is one of the things that ends up driving the audio market. We are all looking for that "magic piece" that will give us audio nirvana, so we keep buying and selling ( the audio foodchain ). That's why most of us stress "see for yourself in YOUR system". It's also one of the reasons that we play the used market to a great extent. We're hoping that "someone else's crap" will sound "killer" in OUR system AND do it for pennies on the dollar.

Anybody have any "boat anchors" that they want to "give away" ??? : ) Sean
Perhaps whoever gave my post negative votes missed my point; perhaps I was too vague and not direct enough. I will answer Felthove's query as directly as I can: NO! I have never "made a fairly costly purchase and not been able to hear a difference". Was it always a positive difference? No way! But I could always, perhaps with time, hear a difference. And no I was not fooling myself. I will add however, that my personal experience with all the different types of equipment and tweaks available is not nearly as comprehensive as that of some audiophiles I know.

I think it is important for audiophiles to accept the premise that ANY change in the components of a sound system, and that includes isolation and other "lesser" components, will have an effect in the sound of a system. It has to. Wether we can hear it or are familiar enough with that type of possibly subtle sonic characteristic, does not affect the reality of the sonic change; however subtle. Then again, one man's subtle change is another's obvious change.

The point of my first post, if perhaps not directly on topic, is certainly relevant. And that is, that only through exposure to the live musical experience can the audiophile hope to truly reach the highest level of hearing/listening acuity and appreciation. I hope this point is not construed as provocative or elitist; it is IMO quite logical.

We audiophiles generally accept the idea that the recording/playback process distorts the original event to varying degrees. The rich complexity of live music is IMO well beyond the capabilities of most record/playback equipment, so only through exposure to the live experience can we have an honest sense of just how "subtle" the potential effects of changing equipment might be.

Happy listening and support live music! It just might save us costly equipment purchase mistakes in the long run.

3chihuahuas, your practice is normal, don't worry, eventually they stop asking...afeter about wife no. 5!
Bluenose, I'm going to HAVE to lie about the Meadowlark Nightingale's I crave, unless the Talon Khorus that I'm planning to listen to do it!

Anyway, that's why I keep my system at the office...great for late night / early morning listening!
Brought home an expensive (to me) multidisc CD player, anxious to hear a spectacular improvement over my Yamaha. Nothing, nada, nil. Listened intently, repeatedly for a week, at the end of which I took the player back to the dealer. I was pretty bummed when he told me it was too late to return it--they considered any trial longer than a day as a purchase! They gave me credit, though, toward a single disc player which exhibited huge improvement, even with casual (read: spouse) listening. I still have my Icon MkII Power Boss.

A comment on the "remove it and you can hear a loss" phenomenon. Most manufacturers and good dealers will tell you that it might take a while for even an already broken-in piece of equipment or wire to settle in to a system. These comments would seem to lend creedence to that argument, which I never felt was very compelling on its own. While not making any substantial contribution to a system upon their introduction, many components probably reach some state of acclimation after which their removal will make much more of an impact.