The short answer to your question is, "What time is it?". ;)
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My system(s) are always a work-in-progress. I have no plan or timetable; it just usually happens in small stages. It may be as simple as better isolation here, a new power cord there, etc. A major purchase is usually initiated by some new product or technology. If it out classes something else in the system, then there might be more changes coming. Some gear gets passed down to other lesser system I have.
Like the others, it sort of depends. When I first started I upgraded often because (1) I started to make enough money to afford where I wanted to be heading (for example, I bought an Acoustat preamp to tide me over till I got my Audio Research SP11, my Thiel CS3's till I could afford 3.5s-which suddenly changed to Duntech Princesses when I heard those), (2) that couldn't happen soon enough for me and, (3) as I realize in hindsight, I really didn't know exactly what it was that I wanted. Once I finally realized what it was I wanted and got it, though, I've tended to hold onto it for quite a while, pretty much about 10 years on average, until reliability becomes an issue. Now I confine most of my changes to tweaks and performance modification upgrades to existing components, although recently I've changed my main amps and preamp because my older units were getting to be in the shop more often than in the system. I expect their replacements to be around for a while as well.
Over the past year I've upgraded quite often because it had been about 20 years since I upgraded before that (high school). It wasnt so much upgrading as it was exploring how things sound differently. Some were upgrades, some were side-grades. Right now I feel like I'm just fine tuning, but unfortunately it's the fine tuning that can get expensive and become the proverbial search for the grail.
I think the trick is to find a sound you like and play within that realm. For example, if you like the "tube" sound, as if there was one, you can experiment/upgrade with different types of tubes or brands. Once you find a sound you like -- dynamic, romantic, warm, detailed, whatever -- don't try to upgrade too much beyond that because you may lose it. Some components just click into place like the wheels in a slot machine and you'll keep them for a long time, or at least you should try to resist the urge to replace them.
Also, if you think you might upgrade fairly soon you should consider stretching your budget and going the next step up. This can sometimes save you worry and money.
And don't forget tweaks and room placement. These can really make or break how you like your system, whatever it is at the time.
A serious reply.
I have had systems since 1965.That first one lasted 15 years when I sold everything and moved across the country.
Another pickup system lasted about three years, it was all junk but provided music.
I started my current system in 1984.
I totally got the bug and sold all the starter stuff and moved up, I bought some Infinity RSIIa for $2,200 on sale. they lasted 20 years. I just 4 months ago tore them apart to sell the bits and pieces as I got WAY more money for those than I would have for the whole speaker system.
I am using some Maggie MGIIb I got at a steal price of $200. from a LOCAL dealer, clean and new covers!!
My amp bought new when it was raved about ?? 10 years ago?? it is a Forte 4a amp that is all I will ever need, for ever unless it breaks. same with cables. I do not play cable flavor of the day.
I dumped my Counterpoint pre because it broke twice, and got a SS Adcom. That was a few years ago, and again it will be it until it goes to stereo heaven.
I added last year a Sony SCD777ES player and sold my Rotel transport that was 4 years old.
I wore out a Sony 87Es 5 disc (played everyday all day while I was gone for my pets, for 10 years) and bought a replacement in a Sony 7Es, added a Sony 9ES that was a sudden opportunity/steal at $110. (again for my pets)
The last six months just got into vinyl and a used AR pre pre , Denon 59L and Dual golden one plus an Ortofon OM20. and LPs lots of used LPs.
The Maggies are currently using automotive wire for cables because the AQ midnite cables I have need retermination.
So the NEED vs the DESIRE can be difficult to determine.
I say if you HAVE to spend something, buy ONE really GOOD thing at a time. Instead of a bunch of slightly better stuff together.
Say a dynamite pre that you can say will last you at LEAST 10 years.
You do not have to plan to have a system that the cost is more than a new Mercedes!!
Think about what level of stuff YOU want, and stick to your plan. I do not NEED better stuff at all.
I probably will replace the Maggies with something in the $3,000 area in a year or so. Right now I am grooving on the LPs I am totally into that.
I guess I fall into the camp of making fewer changes, but more material changes when I do make one. Like Rcprince, my equipment usually stays in my system about 10 years on average. (I lived with a beautiful pair of updated Marantz 9 amplifiers for 25 years. Speakers on the other hand seemed to have lasted about 8 years on average.) I have avoided making minor incremental changes in favor of fewer more significant upgrades. I've also consciously limited myself to a single system so any of the limited financial resources available could be maximized in that one system.
On a more serious note, the idea of making fewer significant changes is one that probably will minimize your $ outlay and maximize your enjoyment, unless you have $ to burn. Someone much wiser than me noted on this forum that you should plan on doubling the cost of the component you replace (on a new vs. new or used vs. used) basis to make a significant upgrade and my experience shows that that is pretty close to being correct, at least in the middle of the high-end market (wherever that is).
Ever since i had gotten out of the military, i would upgrade whenever it made sence economically.
Several times i had a chance to upgrade in the past 2 years and i diddnt because i had other priorities, Before that i would Make 1-2 major purchases in my stereo over the course of the year.
No all i have is radioshack speakers, a decent preamp, and a denon amplifier that keeps producing occasional static when everything else is off, i keep expecting it to explode, so right now i really really have an upgrade bug.
Once i get myself a decent rig i will probably go another year before any new purchases.
First i need new speakers, amp, pre, etc. probably gonna build it myself. Tube stuff most likely.
Maybe a year after that i will look into getting a turntable some some blues on vinyl.
One more thing.
Really be happy with what you have now. enjoy it, even if it has some shortcoming, who cares!!! just listen to the MUSIC, not your system!!!
Some folks get so into the electronics they can't enjoy anything anymore... all they think about is how to make it sound better. They never get around to just having fun enjoying some music.
(Though once I made a bad purchase choice, and after the fun of a new toy wore off I realized I had almost totally stopped listening to music. I had to think out what happened and realized that the pre I bought was crap, (A Sony ??1000 thier first digital processing pre)
The Hafler DH110 before that was a really pleasant pre. the Sony, after the fun of the bells and whistles wore off, sucked.)
When I started, I would buy something, and start saving to upgrade the next component. Now my last buy is a DVD-player, no upgrade, but something 'new'. Strange thing is, I just don't feel the need to buy better and better. Maybe that means my system is good enough for me? Every now and then I get the urge to buy new stuff, but then I think of the money I could also use for other nice things. So for me, I suppose I can say that after some 22 years my search for the holy grail is over (I haven't found it though!!!!!). Now I got to be honest: there is one thing I just keep on buying, and it's that strange, non-technical stuff called music..... You could try that as well!
I usually do one major upgrade a year around my birthday which is coming in about a month (lucky me). What I upgrade really depends on what I want to improve. This year I am going to upgrade two items:
I have a number of edge-warped records that are real treasure to me. I have tried all ways and means to flatten them without much success. So I have just ordered a ring clamp and a VPI HR-X platter upgrade for my Aries. The ring clamp is really all I need but it wont work with the Aries platter (too small) so I am getting both. They should be arriving in about a week.
I am also looking into getting a better phono amp. I am using a Krell KPE standard now. It is a very good all-around performer quiet, dynamic, good bass, easy to use; but it lacks the kind of emotional touch that I used to experience from an AR SP-6A. There are so many choices that I am considering: Hagerman Trumpet, Acoustech PH.D, a used Manlay Steelhead, etc; and I have no way to audition most of them so the final decision wont be easy.
Slappy, the last Slappy I knew was my history teacher and Golden Gloves champ. Slappy used to entertain us in the cafeteria by grasping a fly in front our noses with his massive fist. He would slowly open his fist to reveal the compacted fly. He taught the same way. There was a music point I was going to make...
I relize this is an older thread but couldnt resist. My first system was put together in 1985. NAD receiver, tt and a pair of bose. In 86 i dumped the bose in favor of a pair of minimus 7's and 2 diy bass cabinets and added a JVC 6 disc changer. This system lasted untill 1990 when I upgraded to an Adcom pre GFP 555II and a pair of Adcom GFA 555's 1 pair of Klipsh 1 pair of Pioneer a Dennon CDP and a yamaha tt with an orthophon om20. This system lasted untill 2001. The reason for a complete system rebuild is a long story. But in 2001 I picked up a pair of B&W CDM9NT and a Dennon DVD2800 then I ended up getting a B&K pre and a B&K amp. At the and of 2003 came the bug. I went in for a few minor upgrades, cables and a power conditioner.
The rest of the story is in my current system (Bit By the Bug). Yes I am tweeking.
The moral of this story is listen to Elizabeth.
Remember to take the system as a whole.
It depends what you are in it for. There are many different reasons why a person might want to "upgrade" their equiptment. Personally, I liked EliZabeths last bit of advice. Enjoy yourself now, in the way you feel inclined to do. If it is about exploring then explore. You need not apologize. If you have a sense that your system would benefit from a change, then do it. Even be wrong- or feel you are. You will recover, and maybe be wiser for the risk and happier for the experience. That is a possibility! Or- if you need to be sensible as well as informed, you could forgo any action until the way makes itself clear to you.It could be something as simple as one of components begins to show signs of failure and it is time to replace it.The perfect excuse will make the process all the more enjoyable.For me it was because I thought my system sounded like shit. It did to me.And-at that, I was not very scientific or creative when the time arrived for me to put to practice anything I may have learned over these years.You cannot imagine how pleased I was when it worked out! My system deviates from some ideal I have what the perfect system might be, but I am truly happy with what I have. I would not reccommend my approach to anyone. However, I would reccommend being happy doing what you are doing. It is your money- by robbery or inheritance or work, and your life, regardless. Enjoy yourself!
For me it revolves around what I could afford. I've always wanted an excellent sounding system, and have spent the last 28 years getting there. I bought the best sounding basic system I could afford, and then slowly upgraded each weak link as I learned more about audio, and when funds allowed (this includes tweaks). I am still at it, having just added power conditioning, which will be followed by power cords and then a new CD player. Next will be to add a turntable, tuner, and an SACD/DVD-A player.
I am thrilled with the sound of my system, and I thoroughly enjoy the way I have approached it. In recent years I usually change something about once a year, giving me plenty of time to enjoy it while I research my next purchase. This way, each decision is carefully thought out to the best of my ability.
It sounds to me like you already have the makings of an excellent system already. If it was me, I would maximize what you already have before I changed anything. Since you didn't mention cables or power conditioning (unless it was just an omission), I would start there. Had I known years ago what I know today I would have added power conditioning long ago. Only by trying it did I find out how much dirty electricity affects the sound of audio electronics. This would be my recommendation - make this change and you will realize the full potential of your current and future equipment. You may find your current system to be so enjoyable that you won't want to change it, or if you do it will be for the right reasons.
Well, im sorta in the process of that now. Never actually took the marrige plunge but i did have it scheduled.
Now im back in the market checking out various systems and definatly looking for a higher-end model.
Something a little slimmer in the mid-range with nice forward high end, and a ample low-end. Ive managed to audition several systems in the past few months but have not been able to decide on a new model yet. The problem is finding the correct mix of cosmetic features with performance. It seems all to easy to find something very athetically appealing that has a shrill high end. Sometimes you really have to look around to find the correct system.
Also, synergy is very important to me, i would like the synergy to be so great that the system repeatedly senergizes with me on a nightly basis and takes me to a world far better than the one i occupy day to day. A system i can really indulge in that would never get fatiguing or worn out.
Im also sorta interested in a model that i dont have to upgrade but the option is there if need be. The last thing i want is deciding on a system for life and end up getting some sort of a lag on the right channel, or having a tube blow out on me.
Slappy, life would be boring if my system were immortal. Somehow I connect better with my system knowing that it, like me, dies a little more each day. Tubes wear out and so does the vinyl after each play. Having that human connection with it all sure helps be appreciate it while it still here.
Oh yeah, I buy a completely new (to me) system every 18-24 months. Last upgrade was the house, so I'm really good for another 18 months.
Personal budget is the key and only a fool would disagree.
Remember, to live a middle-income lifestyle relative to $50-$70,000 today, a 35-40 year old will need approximately $1.4 - $2 million at retirement (most of us won't see social security). If you are investing at the proper rate, keeping your income to debt ratio level, saving for emergencies (at least 3 - 4 months rent or mortgage in savings), budgeting for all living expenses and saving for "other pleasures", like a much needed vacation, then you should spend what you feel comfortable with on audio components. If you are the provider for children, then you should NEVER eat into THEIR living expenses (education, medical, clothing, TOYS, etc) for your toys (that would be @#$% SELFISH and worthy of being broken and injured by Tony and the boys)
My point; don't let this hobby ("obsession") get out of control. Audio equipment depreciates as fast as your automobile. Make darn certain that you are investing in more tangibles and intangibles that appreciate than the ones that depreciate (i.e. house, real estate, investments, etc.) We all want what we can't have. $16,000 power amps just ain't made for some of us (not to mention $5,000 cables and ICs). Be happy with what you have. Then have a cocktail!!!!!
Kind of a no-brainer. Don't ya think!
Oh Satch, I didn't say I was a responsible guy. I'm trying very hard to be one though. It sounds like email@example.com is young and wants some earnest advice. The $14,000 I spent on my rig (which isn't even considered high-end by today's standards) ten years ago, if put in the mutual funds I had at the time (despite the big drop)would have given me a $21,000 return. Add that to the initial $14,000 and I would have $35,000 today. Given that scenario, I could buy a pretty good rig and have lots of cash left to save, invest or spend frivolously.
It's just an option that should be considered. I truly wish I would have invested that $14K ten years ago. But, I'm a middle-class kind of guy whose been around long enough to give some good advice. Maybe you're not. In fact, you're obviously very young and doing what most of us do at young ages - live life for today. Man, I miss those days. I've got a family to provide for now. Some day, you'll understand.
Make that two cocktails.
Cheers mate, and thanx for the compliment - I'm not that young anymore, I just haven't learned anything from the past :). Seriously, you're right offcourse. Food, shelter, clothes etc. is much more important than equipment, especially when you can buy cheap or seondhand gear and listen to music. True, it won't sound as good as the so called high-end, but good music remains good music, whatever equipment it is played on. Geez..... I've learned something afterall!! I'll make that 3 cocktails....
I was in a high-end shop the other day and this guy comes in asking about a $7K plasma. He was asking about financing options, and mentioned to the sales guy that he had maxed out his credit cards. You could tell that this poor soul had lust in his heart for this plasma and was going to get it somehow and pay a ton of interest for it to boot.
If you look at the utility you get out of something as a proportion of your income, it should make sense. I thoroughly enjoy listening and spend time almost every day. How many folks have boats, jet skis, etc. that hardly ever get used? It is got to make sense for each individual.
With that said, I can't wait for my next CDP and AMP and ......
Satch, I'll match your three cocktails and up it two! Cheers back to you. An audio forum should focus on audio, not finance. For that reason, I was off course. However, I've gotten some very good advice from fellow Agoners and have cyberacted with some very desent people. Agon is also about helping fellow members out. From that stand point, I was right on course.
OK,quit wasting your valuable time and get out there and start shopping.Then go shop some more and come back with your stories.This is my 3rd or 4th year here now and I think we should have a reunion.Like at Carnegie or Avery or the Fillmore.WE could bring our toys and plug in for a couple days.... and get down to whats really wrong/right.I would like to see who we are....I think......Bob