How do you "downgrade"?

This is a hobby that always strives for more and more. To anyone who's "downgraded" for non-financial reasons, how did you come to that decision, and how did you manage to live with having less?
One of the easiest ways to downgrade is to change your system configuration and in the process you may get better sound. Many customers have done that with me this past year for a variety of reasons and seldom was it a money issue. Often times it is just to have a simpler more appealing system that brings harmony to the household.

Go from a DAC and transport to a one box you will lose very little if anything and you save one powercord and a digital cable. Go from a preamp and amp to an integrated amp. Again one less cable and one less powercord. 2 components in a rack or 3 if you have a line conditioner is much easier on the aesthetics especially since you have fewer cables everywhere.

Another advantage of a simple system is that it may then make more sense to purchase really great cables because suddenly you don't have to split the budget in so many directions. Over the years the hardest purchase for consumers is the really expensive cables and powercords. Sure you may hear the difference but you just don't see what you are paying so much money to get.

Often a simpler system will sound better just because it is easier for the consumer to justify spending the money on cables, a great rack like a Zoethecus or whatever. It is easy to live with having less if it sounds better, and even easier if in your families eyes you have sacrificed for the good of the many.
That was well put. I also believe that we get caught up in the stuff and lose sight of the music.
Ready for this?

I have downgraded twice now! When I get to a system that I love, I have sold it completely out! For me, building, learning about all the different products that go or don't go with another is the enjoyment I get. Sure, many fristrations, and yes, alot of work, but all in all, I love it.

For what it is worth now, I have a complete set of Aerials, 10T, CC5, 2 SW-12, and SR3, Proceed PAV/PDSD, and yep, it is a consideration now.......

Good luck!
I believe that one box vs DAC-transport very often have the same price depending on the brands compared with only difference of extra spending on digital cable that can be bought at minimal price without hurting overall digital performance(~$20 at pro-music store such as Sam-Ash) Since in digital playback you cannot go "lower than floor" you won't need to even think spending over $50 for 1m of a digital cable in any case.

The main downgrade to consider is CABLES. Yes they do matter especially on analogue domain and they can change imaging and bass extension, but only for a few percent of overall performance. There are plenty of high quality and extra low-priced cables that you can acquire instead of current expencive.

I prefere to buy unterminated cables(speaker- and interconnect- as well) and terminate them myself. So some little DIY will help a lot and not only with cables. You can also brew yourself a nice passive preamp if you have large enough output from your source component(s)

You might also consider changing NOS tubes to a regular ones that are designed by manufacturer.

IMO I would downgrade my source last since I've built system basically from the source(believe it or not from the turntable cartridge) and first "victim" will be power amp.
One more tip: You can choose downgrading your car as well!
I concur that the first reply was very well put! I would rather see the word "downsize" rather than "downgrade", as was mentioned, downsizing may not mean sacrificing sound.

There are more and more exceptional integrated amps everday and many wonderful one box CD players.

I would be classified as "downsized" and absolutely love my system. (This doesn't mean I wouldn't ever change. LOL - Gotta put my disclaimer in, you know how we are.)
First, go for gear that LOOKS GREAT. No kidding, the subjective loss will be easier to take, the musical loss also. Second don't start comparing or expecting the same sound as the previous megabuck system. In a way , let's be less analytical about the whole thing. Let's just settle for an overall pleasant sound. Lastly, get the best speakers you can afford within your system. You will probably not extract the last ounce of quality from an integrated amplifier, as there are great ones out there, however, we get to the "limits" of a speaker much faster and it has a larger role in the overall sound quality in a more modest system. I went down from Verity Audio Parsifal speakers, Sonic Frontiers Power 2, the list go on, and it's not that bad after all !!!!
My biggest downgrade if you can call it that is cables. All my (new price) $1000 to 1500++ cables are gone, replaced by some costing in the $250 to $300 range new, plus some +/-$300 used cables that are 95% of the megabuck cables as far as detail, but have more synergy to the music to my ears. Some of this money went to power cords which I had never taken much time with before.

I guess since the power cords got upgraded, I did not downgrade the system, I shifted its emphasis.

I also sold off my megabuck CD player a little over a year ago. Digital seems to change so often, I really decided they depreciate too fast. I am happy with spending $450 for the Stan Warren DVD variety in one system, and Stan's modded Aiwa/MSB combo in the other. The DVD player is 95% of the megabuck player (at 15% of the cost), and the Aiwa/MSB as good or slightly better. When they become old technology, I'll still have a decent spare DVD player for the HT system, or for use with a spare bedroom TV. The Aiwa is a throw away/give away, or yard sale item, it costs so little.

.........good god! Do you people realize what you're saying??? I'm reaching for the Thorazine right now-- shaking and sweating badly now and only able to make sounds like a racoon-- got to get my therapist immediately-- and if able to speak coherently-- my attorney, and maybe an accountant. Sue the bastards they say-- but who to sue-- yet there's always someone guilty as hell in a deal like this. I mean take a look at what happened when Enron and Anderson Accounting "down sized". This is a TOTALLY un-american concept.

The weasels are closing in fast now, so I won't be able to stay at the keyboard much longer. We have magnums of course, but it's inevitable that the stinking brutes will win. Cremate my remains if they can be found. Garfish of Earth, Late.
I keep trying to downgrade, without success. My previous high end system ends up trashing the "downgraded" system. Recently I tried a $3000 Stereophile class A integrated, and it sounded very grainy, lacking in presence, compared to my current system (CJ 17LS, CJ Premier 12's).

On a lark I just ordered an LSD Mistral LE integrated. At the least it should prove to be a nice solid state backup to my relatively finicky tube system. By the reviews though it might just fulfill my dream of downgrading - it's allegedly SET-like in it's liquidity. We shall see. I'm trying to not get my hopes up....
I can feel your pain. I went from 10k speakers, 8k cd, etc down to nothing and now have started back with a very modest system. In my case I grew too fast and got to striving for specific sounds instead of enjoying the music which was my original intent. Well there were other reasons as well but lets just say I was compelled to get rid of everything.

At the time I intended to get a system back but one that was less demanding. I going to tell you what happened but I want to say I didn't do it on purpose but I am glad it happened.

After selling all my stuff off, one thing led to another and I couldn't replace anything for a time. I was worried for a while if I would ever get back into the hobby. However I get numerous magazines and spend too much time on the web (on Audiogon mostly) so I kept my hands in things but didn't buy. As time went on I got more anxious about getting something and when it became apparent I could start as far up the chain as I wanted, I slowly became convinced that some well thought out inexpensive system was better than nothing.

To this end I started exploring high quality/value entry level gear. I have a dealer friend so I would visit the store every so often - not too often because I was getting depressed that i couldn't replace my system - kind of embarrassed to since I was such a high roller earlier. However, I kept dreaming and planning.

In the mean time months went by. I got to visit a friend whose has a state of the art system but he had put together a really nice entry level system for a friend which we listened to as well. This entry level system was remarkably good for the amount of money that went into it and was almost as enjoyable as his big bucks set up. It turned out that it was a lot easier to manage and the simplicity itself was alluring.

Understand that the development of this system took place over an extended period of time where personal preferences were considered. He read and talked with people online and talked with manufacturers etc. Now, I would bet that any audiophile who has not lost his/her love for music would be pleased with this modest system (the most expensive item probably cost him $500 or around there). The system is not only nice to hear but is nice to look at.

He got so much satisfaction out of building this system and every time we listened to it we were both amazed at how much you could get with so little. His system, my system had become burdens but now this system was fun. Why, how could we enjoy this simplified system?

Now back to my story. Because this process took me so long and I had nothing at home to listen to, my perspective changed. More and more things began to sound good. Stuff I couldn't have lived with in the past, because of my prejudice, began to sound like quality audio. I began to appreciate just how far entry-level gear has come and just how much value can be had if you shop wisely.

The whole process of study, research, waiting, searching for the best deals on the best value products became a fun pursuit. Mixing that with my personal preferences and with my budget (a novel guiding principle) opened up a whole new world. I went so fast from starting the hobby up to the top (so to speak) I didn’t get the pleasure of the journey.

My audio bud, mentioned above, and I talked a lot about why we did the hobby and how to enjoy the equipment side without losing our first love which, of course, was music. Were you ever willing to put 2k-6k on a credit card so you could get that must have piece of equipment? But, at the same time you would never even consider spending 3k on music all at once, yet music is supposed to be the main reason for the hobby. Notice I say the “main” reason. I say this because I also think a legitimate part of the hobby, or perhaps a hobby within a hobby, is the appreciation for the equipment. The equipment in many respects is like art. I think most people developing it are artists … engineer artists. The equipment can be physically beautiful in its’ understated elegance or its cutting edge design. Simplicity, complexity, and beauty both inside and out. There are the design philosophies, the cutting edge engineering ideas, the customization, and so forth. There is so much to appreciate that even if you weren’t in love with music you could be in love with the designs…much like a car collector and still be ok.

However, I feel we can have the best of both worlds but it takes finding control and balance. You apparently feel out of control and you want to rein things in and find your balance. Consider going without anything for 4, 5, 6+ months and see how things change. Give yourself time to reflect, plan, and gain balance and then start off with a plan and slowly, enjoyably, start to build your dream system at whatever level leaves your conscience free (this is different for everyone). Think of all the elements you want in this system, speakers, front end(s), amplification, wiring, racking, power control, room treatment, and of course music (yes, plan your music, maybe even start to collect it and play it in the car, on the boombox, or on your PC, this will all help you appreciate what you eventually get). The whole thing can be an exciting adventure. Tweaks, cabling, and the like can become the icing on your special cake.

Anyway, even if you don’t rid yourself of everything, separate yourself and rediscover why you are in the hobby to begin with and find out what you want out of it going forward and then make a plan. Have fun, your journey is just beginning.

All of my "downgrades" made the system sound better. I would not mind upgrading the power amp sometime. I've tried twice to upgrade my speakers with ones costing up to 133% (2.33 times) more without success. Also twice I've spent a lot more on a preamp and it did not get me better sound; so I've kept the old cheaper one.
Hey Garfish,

Nice imitation of Hunter S Thompson there.

I have to ask, what were the pieces in this lower-end system that you enjoy? I'm always looking for ideas...

- Eric
Thanks Dsunde. I was hoping someone would catch my attempt at Gonzo humor. I've read HST's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" 10-12 times and most of his other works as well. Cheers. Craig.
One thing to consider is going from pre-built stuff to Do It Yourself stuff. You can save a lot of money if you cut out the manufacturer and the distributer. for instance has some modest, but quite nice (and very well priced!) tube preamp and amp kits. There is a whole lot out there. is a great set of forums.

Plus, even if your homebuilt preamp doesn't sound quite as good as a top of the top preamp costing 20 times as much, it can be an excellent cost/performance value, and you'll like it more, because you built it with your own two hands. DIY can produce some amazingly good sound, at very good prices, with the added benefit of pride in your handiwork. Another benefit of DIY is a better understanding of how audio equipment works, which can give you a nice perspective, and let you better understand the differences in equipment. Also, you can easily modify your home built components to your exact wishes. Want to upgrade to a stepped attenuator? Easy! You know all the pinouts, because you made it yourself. :) Want to upgrade the powersupply? Thats fine, you know all the specs! Its fun, and educational, and can let you get a lot of satisfaction out of your system, without spending a ton of money.

Craig, i'd like to print that one and frame it. If not for the laughter that it brought on, i could use it strictly as a reminder that i'm not the only one with those thoughts when reading "keep it simple" type of posts : )

As to Sos, you hit the nail on the head. I always start out simple, but somehow, i end up with a dozen components, wires all over the place, etc... Maybe i need to take Bbtuna's advice and nuke everything and take a break. Sean
I have a very minimalist system consisting of some favorite reasonably priced components that I'm very happy with.I've been at it for a few years and have made my share of costly blunders.I have found the best way to downsize without compromising sound quality is buying and selling amongts the many friends I've made right here on Audiogon.Buying well cared for used gear has been my ticket to owning stuff I couldn't otherwise afford not to mention the sharing of knowlege in getting the best out of what you have.LONG LIVE AUDIOGONER'S!!!
Thanks Sean. I've surely printed a number of your posts-- the RS SPL correction table post comes to mind.

In keeping with the intent of the thread, which BTW is a good one IMO, I've considered going to a single box ML 39 CD player and a good integrated amp-- maybe the Levinson too-- if it sounded good. This route would still be fairly expensive, but much less so than my present system. But I like SR#20, and only intend to "downsize" when I get too senile to keep my present one operating.

If seriously "bucks down" though, I could be happy with a modest one box CD + integrated. Cheers. Craig
Turnaround, you just do it, and stop reading those glossy magazines. I did it, and lived happily for 7 years. Of course the fact that my children were going through developmental years helped. Coaching sports kept me distracted, sure, I didn't listen as much as I used too, but I still had a fairly nice system. I basically cut my system list price by about 60%, it was one of the only ways I could stop the continuos upgrade bug. I lived for 7 years without making 1 single change in my system. Of course I've since fallen off the wagon and am buying left and right again. Some of that has to do with the boys being teenagers and not hanging around much anymore. But it is critical that you stop reading the magazines. They will constantly make you feel like you're missing out on something. That's their job. Stop hanging around audio websites would probably help too. Sorry to say it, but you're only going to hold out so long when you read about everybody else's new toys.