How Do You Live The Audiophile Life

I don’t really have the credentials to be on Audiogon. Kef Q150s and new NAD equipment that replaced my stalwart Arcam Solo. Maybe I can peek over the fence.
So I’ve have a question about the new equipment. I’m browsing the forums, looking for an answer. I know as much as about audio as anyone who isn’t an audiophile. But I was astonished at the number of brands I’d never heard of. And I know the price of the stuff I have heard of.
I’m in NYC. Maybe there’s five high-end dealers here. I’m guessing that number drops off quickly once you cross the Hudson.
This is a long winded way to ask how you live the audiophile life? How do you get access to this stuff? I’d want to hear something before dropping a car-like sum on it. Do you buy blind? Do you travel? Go to the industry shows? Help me, teach me, inform me.
I guess this question applies to speakers as well. Maybe more so. But I was in the amplifier section so . . .
I started with Emotiva in 2009 before they were really well known. It’s a fine place to start. I still have my Emotiva preamp boxed up just in case.

For me the magic came when I started to perceive height in my sound stage. A pair of JBL 4312a ‘s and Emotiva amp showed me this. 
Don’t worry about source material either. A good system will still create magic with MP3, DSD, streaming, Bluetooth, vinyl or reel to reel tape. I can prove it.

Once you begin to be able to discern spacial elements like scale, position, depth, height and width from two speakers you are on the right track. This means you’ve positioned the speakers properly (at least) and that you may have found a good speaker for your room. 

Localities of sound can be super specific. Different amplifiers will produce different scale, layering and tonal characteristics. But the speakers are the final arbiter of how everything sounds. So start there.

Try different amplifiers out. Play with the accuracy and tonality of your digital sources (DACs are important). Try some simple room treatments, nothing crazy. 
Once the speakers vanish (with eyes closed) and you can hear sound 4, 6, 12 feet away from your speakers, sometimes behind your head....
...and sometimes if you find yourself, even to music that isn’t specifically for it, you find yourself ‘dancing’ (in your seat) say to something obscure like Genesis “Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging,” “...Theb you know that you are there...” (to quote PC of Genesis “Silver Rainbow”)
Please feel free to direct message me if you have questions!

Thanks, BrettMcee!   Really appreciate the encouraging words, and suggestions. Speaker placement is a little limited but there is room to work it more, try some things out.  I’m fascinated with integrating DACs into the system.  My first opportunity will probably be putting a Schitt behind the Bluesound player.  But after that I’m at a loss as to thinking of how else the system I have could be enhanced using DACs.  Again, about thoughts very much appreciated.  
@audiodidact   I just added 'the Schitt' to my system.  I have an ModWright Oppo 105D.  It's an excellent performer. But in my never ceasing pursuit to remove distortion and reduce sibilance in my system, I found even the entry level Schiit helped with the accuracy of the 2khz-10khz range and decreased smearing, so any present sibilance became more delineated and musical, less spitty, cutting, tearing. It is also helpful if the DAC can reveal/illuminate any reverb that surrounds those frequencies. 

I also found a very special vintage power amp and an even more special old pro amp that are now my two primary amplifiers. I will probably not be sharing what those amplifiers are at the moment as most audiophile peeps would laugh me from the forum. But these amps (in my setup, my room, and with the music i primarily listen to) have bested a CJ 350 Premiere, a BAT VK-500 with BatPak, a Spectron Musician III mk2 , Carver Sunfire Signature Sunfire 600, a Carver Lightstar 2.0, an Adcom 555 and more.

I have visited Optimal Enchantment and other local shops...  Optimal Enchantment has a gorgeous all-tube AR setup that is once of the best i've heard.  I also visited AXPONA 2018. 

For my room, for my preferred music, I would put my system up against any system that I have heard.

((...I am willing to be tested, but I am pretty sure I have 'golden ears'.

One measure we do not measure is 'speed of hearing'.  Think of it as frame rate is to film or how quickly can you get information from moments.

They say Ted Williams could see the spin of the ball and thats why he was such a great hitter. I was a great hitter (until i grew an irrational singular fear of being hit in the face with the ball) and I'm in an industry where I 'have to see the spin of the ball' all day long. So I know i am well practiced in getting/perceiving near pixel-level data on individual frames--at speed--which is 24 to 30 frames a second.))

I welcome anyone in or passing through the LA area to come on over for a listen.  Just private message me.
speaker placement can take many weekends of trial and error...  

my current speakers are 153 lbs each. so it can be a workout too!

buy colored gaffers tape and mark 'promising placements'.

also doesn't hurt to mark the center of your room.

I loot and pillage.

No wait,that's the Pirate's life.....