I can't get no satisfaction ...... smile

These days with my allaerts breuer tonearm cart combo and the rest of my system, together I have a sound that is very close to the kind of sound i am looking for and the kind of sound i expect from a hi fidelity system. At moments it sounds state of the art... with certain recordings, with certain instruments. I'm talking mostly hear about the timbre of certain instruments and overall tonal shadings.

I am still trying to identify the qualities that i dont feel i have with my systems sound that once i DO have, will get me to the point where i am absolutely blown away almost every time i listen!

Huge order I know. But i feel like i'm getting close to that. I might be just a couple tiny steps away from that. It could be a record mat change or a stand or a cable or something. The quality that i lack isnt obvious but subtle and fine but i can't seem to pin point it.

Part of my problem is...I have no idea of how good it can get? I wish i could fly to some of the systems that are shown here on audiogon so i can get a better read on how i'm doing! [smile]

I have heard other audiophiles systems but the more the better i think.

Does anyone else struggle with the question of how good their systems sound or doesnt and with the question of whats possible?[ i guess as audiophiles we all do to some degree or another]

How many people Love the sound of their system every single time they listen and are not trying to find ways to better their sound? [i thought this might become an interesting thread]

I would imagine their are some really, really frustrated people out there! some wont even find this thread because they sold their gear about 3 years ago and bought an ipod!


I would say for me it changes, not because i get a new component but even from one listen to the next with the same identical system. It could be my mood...ie, the angle at which i come at the music, if you know what i mean.

Overall i am pretty satisfied, sometimes all the tweaking of vta and vtf and different pressings can throw the sound, that drives me batty sometimes. For many years i went back and forth between loving hifi and loathing it. I'd say i'm a couple years away from having all the bugs hammered out of my system and will have it running optimally and will be just listening and buying records only, with maybe the occasional exploration into different gear for pleasure purposes. We'll see what time brings though!

How bout' you?

I never feel that my system is satisfactory though it is much more modest than yours. But, you know, everything else being equal systems do sound somewhat better or worse day to day, especially probably because of speakers.
I am not familiar with your components but I could suggest trying Purist Audio cables instead of Cardas and maybe others too. Better Purists are at totally different level. The current considered best value is the newest edition of Proteus Provectus Praesto. Expensive.
Inna, I think even at the highest levels of playback there are certain reasons why perfect sound still remains elusive.

Here a just a few.

Every studio uses different recording systems that have their own biases that wont necessarily benefit our own systems.

In regards to vinyl cartridges or speakers, i dont think just one kind of those can play all generes equally well, so that is one weakness there.

Some of the classic great recordings were recorded on equipment that today is considered outdated so they can still sound pretty great but still have a sonic signature from the period. [60's dylan 1st pressings, clean copies can still sound quite amazing, nevertheless]

If you play vinyl i can recommend the lehmann audio black cube, denon 103 and a systemdek 8 table as a very musical combo for relatively good prices. In my opinion these are satisfying products even though they are not the best thats available.

Thanks for your honesty.

Vertigo, I agree with everything you said.
I have Nottingham original Spacedeck/Spacearm with soon to be replaced Dyna 10X5 cartridge and Acoustech PH-I phono. I am thinking about either trying Goldring 1042 MM or Garrott MM or perhaps Lyra MC though the latter is expensive to me even directly from the UK (about $800). Also, I have no idea how Lyra would match with Spacearm; should match well with my phono though.
Yes, it's a neverending quest for the perfect sound.
By the way, it's summertime now, and I can't listen to my stereo in the daytime when it's hot. It just sounds very congested and overall terrible in a way that's not easy to describe.
I think building a system with good neutraility will get you close to what you are looking for . I've built a system that sounds very involving night or day , hot or cold , Jazz or rock/pop , good recordings or bad . I won't say it makes a poorly recorded disc sound like a good one , but almost all disc's are very listenable and enjoyable but never frustrating . It's taken many years , much listening and of coarse $ to finally get a system that sounds right all the time with all music , and there's no hint of anguish just pure pleasure .
no stereo can replicate the sound of a live orchestra. that can be vexing.
I don't whats vexing about it , we new from the first audio component we purchased many years ago that it would not sound like live music and to this day we no that a new piece of kit , no matter how great will leave something behind .
What we can do is create a music maker that will entertain and dazzle us into joyish submission .

I used to have a goldring 1042 i bought it cause the reviews looked pretty good. I found it pretty resolving, kinda so so, but didnt really do anything especially special. The denon 103 is very balanced and quite complete. It makes a very coherent picture of the music without over emphasizing in any areas to make some fault. It tries to be neutral and succeeds quite well. It produces timbres that are a little "greyed". It is of course not world class in transparency. It is still a great cartridge for what it is! at its asking price.

Lyra makes great cartridges. The little denon might make you as happy or more happier but i have no experience with the lyra you are considering. What i'm trying to say is the denon is a no brainer and that its a cartridge the plays higher than its price and can sound better than many more than double its price. [i think thats a fair statement]. Anyways just something to think about. That said...lyra makes some of the best cartridges available.

I have quite a few tubes [happily] in my system. When summer comes i dont feel like adding more heat and then try to listen. Something says..."you should go outside" so playing music when its hot feels a bit couped up and how can you enjoy music if your feeling suffocated!{smiling}

My sound, i would say is very neutral and very transparent, maybe extraordinarily transparent even? Dynamics are extremely effortless while remaining gentle and relaxed. Then add to that timbrel fidelity and then think about a single saxaphone playing. The transparency is in the inflections of his fingers picking and choosing the notes, how fast he is or isnt moving from one to the next, all the different levels of breathing pressures are laid bare as he plays, the brass of the instrument is gentle soft, beautiful and shimmering and then add nothing else to it, no artifacts, just clear beautiful sax, with speed and timbre. But its not hyped speed, just as it appears in real life. which is faster than most think.(think)

Of course we are talking degrees and in what league? I thought i understood those terms, speed, transparency, timbre but i didnt really until i arrived at the system i have today. My system redefined those concepts altogether.

This has made my "ear brain" more acute and astute to musical cues and subtleties....i like to think so, anyways![smile]but at a much higher level then in my previous system when i thought i understood many of those concepts before. When this happens our expectations go higher and minute details and subtleties of musical cues become even more so desired.

I'm glad that you have that level of satisfaction. Like i said i'm very close to a very special sound but i'm just looking for a little smidgen of some quality not yet identified and a overall more general level of satisfaction over a broader range of records.

I have alot of non audiophile friends and family who say... of stereos that sound terrible, wow it sounds great!... but i hear all the problems with the sound that they dont! Because the standard they use to measure against, is what it is and because it is low of course it sounds great!

Ever go to record shops that have records playing? Some of those people listen to records at that level through those kinds of speakers all the time and think it sounds great! You know what it makes me think? If you are only going to playback your vinyl at that level, get a cd player or ipod because i dont hear the advantage of the format. Of course some people like the nostalgia part of playing a record. Fine, i guess.

What am i trying to say? ...i'm not sure[laugh]

I guess i'm trying to say, i'm glad you're so satisfied but i wonder if your system would make me feel the way your system makes you feel. It might?


I wonder if you heard my system if you could enjoy it all the time, everytime, as you do yours. We'll probably never know.

It will depend on how sophisticated our musical "palettes" are, how high our expectations are and the degree to which we know what is possible in the current state of the technology.

The last one there, i think is determined by how many different systems we've heard and their calibre.I'm not assuming anything or implying anything, i'm just thinking out loud.

Also, i know digital has progressed very far but i still believe that vinyl is the better format. That is my personal bias.

Vertigo... As far as sources go I've owed and heard many of both digital and analog and think I'm safe in saying neither one is superior in every way . Many audiophile friends have systems that are a whisker bright so analog seems to be the way to go for them . About 8 years ago I decided to put all my resources in to one format , because high end can have a very high price tag . At that time LP's were fading and hard to get in Edmonton , so I decided to go digital since I'm mostly into music , ya I no my system link says otherwise . So all my resources /money went to a close to state of the art type player ,DAC , cabling , cords isolation not to mention power conditioning that is crucial to good digital playback . I guess I'm a little biased but I think most big eared audiophiles would enjoy my system , even vinylphiles . Regards Tim
Thanks Tom,

***As far as sources go I've owed and heard many of both digital and analog and think I'm safe in saying neither one is superior in every way .****

I think i agree with you there.Do you say that from the perspective of how easy they are to use? Or strictly from a sonic perspective?

Each audiophile has different needs and different expectations and to varying degrees. So, when some have reached a certain level of playback they are satisfied and their done. And i say this this with mostly digital in mind.

My experience has been that digital is easier to work with. And right now i'm strictly talking about sonics. With digital its easier to get 92 percent of the sonic envelope right 95 percent of the time but then you are stuck at the level and cant go up any higher because of the format.But most will probably be content at this level because you're getting most of the music and getting it consistently at that level. You just cue up the digital and press play.

***As far as sources go I've owed and heard many of both digital and analog and think I'm safe in saying neither one is superior in every way .****

Because my first audiophile value is timbre i go with vinyl. My bias is that in this respect vinyl has a much higher potential to BE superior, though because of the nature of its requirements to be played back optimally it often fails to live up to its potential more so than digital. If you work really hard at getting the best digital and really hard at getting the best vinyl, i think you will get better sound from the vinyl.

Someone once said..."the easiest thing to do in the world is to play a record wrong!"

I laugh at that mostly because of all the effort and frustration i've experienced as i try to learn the art of playing back a record at high levels. Its a long road and there are many fine adjustments that can change one or the other parameter when you play a record back. But the quote is so true and for some all the work isnt worth it.

I can play back my whole record collection as is and enjoy the music of every record but when i put on my "extreme audio hat" and i am striving for the best possible tonal richness and dynamics , to my mind i necessarily must go to vinyl for that. I just havent been pursuaded that digital can produce the kind of timbre that vinyl can.

I believe that a combination of the best thought out component designs, a deep understanding of set up, a critical look at materials utilized, will yield that goal of the highest level of tonal richness and dynamics in playback.

By this i believe i'm staying on and persevering for that last 8 percent that i believe to be only available from the format of vinyl. That last bit is where i believe the music lives. A harmonica is a melancholy instrument. It has a lonely and sad sound. But that loneliness is inherent in the materials it is made from and how they vibrate. I can't play the harmonica but i am trying to learn to play it. If i just pick any spot and blow one or two notes, i hear that loneliness in its sound, its not my playing its the materials in the instrument that create the emotion of melancholy. If i am not reproducing that in my system i'm not really going feel its emotion. Again we're talking levels and leagues. The allaerts cart was a "game changer" for me in this regard. I can hear the steel reeds as well as the synthetic comb of the harmonica. I hear its woodiness and its shiny clean metal at the same time. This produces the melancholy sound. My system nails that timbre like digital cant. All this i know will sound like just words and talk, and i didnt know til i heard it myself. But if you never heard it you wouldnt know to miss it. To use another analogy if you told me in words about your hometown i could never really know it til i visited.

I think its fair to say i get a kick out of 'extreme vinyl'.
Even though its more work, more expensive and its easier to get wrong than digital its still worth it.

If i may...here's why i think vinyl is the inherently better format from a strictly sonic evaluation.

Because the format itself is 'materials and resonance dependent' which is what real music is made from, whether its the vibrating vocal cords of a singer or the resonance of a acoustic guitar body. Both are MATERIALS resonating. So, the natural mechanical vibration of a well designed stylus has an advantage over a digital laser because it too is material and resonant dependent therefore has the potential to mimick reality better.

Because this is the case cartridge designers consider different materials and how those materials can best replicate timbres when they are deciding on a material for the cartridge body.

Anyways...i've digressed off the topic of this thread but i guess somehow its related. I say all this for the fun and pursuit of this hobby and i dont pretend to know what your system sounds like. If someone is happy then i am happy.

I own a aero prima cd player and 'the best' digital i have heard was the emm labs combo. What i mean is the emm labs is supposed to be really great digital and it was. I heard it in an unfamiliar system that had state of the art products. I didnt think its timbres were very rich like how i now know they can be. My opinion is that the timbres were somewhat greyed or bleached out and not rich,dense and compacted with timbre. It wasnt very silky. Silk is shiny, smooth and soft.

I've recently got into nirvana of all things. what a surprise. Anyways if i want a original pressing i have to pay maybe 35-55 bucks on ebay for it! Thats nuts! When i can find a used cd of the same album in a pawn shop for maybe 3 bucks? Is it worth it? I wouldnt even consider it if i didnt hear it with the allaerts and the rest of my system pulling as a team. It can make it seem like it is in fact worth it. But on a day where some parameter is slightly out it will make me have my doubts!(smiling)

The kick i get out of trying to get 'extreme playback' is why i might pay that much for a record, the pursuit of 'the best' on the planet is fun! plus if i have a change of heart i can always decide to sell it ALL and just get an ipod!

****i cant get no satisfaction****

Paradoxically, not getting any satisfaction is giving me some! As the pursuit becomes the source of the pleasure.
Hello Vertigo .. I was speaking from a pure sonic prospective . I guess we all have different sonic perimeters that we value . I value a natural , neutral tonal balance with the just the right amount of musicality and superior bass performance , I have found that in digital in a way that analog just doesn't seem to convey . Clearly a personal preference . I have spent considerable time and money getting things just right , and it wasn't until the last two components were purchased and correctly voiced that the musicians entered my music chamber and player for me personally . ( Ayre KXR preamp and Ayre C5MP used as a transport ). When I traded in my LP's for CD's I always felt I would hear an analog rig that would bring me back to vinyl , but so far that hasn't happened , I do get allot of exposure to other system's being involved in an audio club . I think easy access was one of the reason's I original wen digital only but since then , sonic's and musical pleasure is my only concern . Regards Tim

I think its so difficult to exhaustively describe how one systems sounds. In a way i think its futile without actually hearing the system for oneself. What i mean is that i think alot of us at best have notions of what someone elses systems sound like. We might think it would sound great but when actually listening be underwhelmed or vice versa, even with components we are familiar with since no two systems are exactly alike. This might sound absurd but like no two wines are exactly alike neither do two systems sound exactly alike. I'm glad youre enjoying your system! All i can do is is keep heading on the course i am on and see where it leads me. I'm striving for something and i want to see if i can acheive it. I very well might be wrong but for now i believe vinyl is the right path for me for reasons stated in the last post.

There are times when the "song" is more important and you couldnt care less about the fidelity. Headphones, digital, vinyl, mp3, who cares....the song is more important.

Thats partly the kind of listener i am.
what i meant to say is...

I'm striving for something SPECIAL and i want to see if i can acheive it.

What was the most "extreme" cartridge you used when you had vinyl playback? That increases the likelihood of satisfaction but doesnt guarantee it but i am curious which you had.

I would still argue vinyl is superior but i bet alot of people havent heard a well put together system, that has synergy and is set up well, no wonder people prefer digital.

I understand the appeal of digital, even as i listen to it now through heaphones, its pretty good and is so "turn key" but its that last bit that it just cant seem to pull off, that i hear on my vinyl end but not always, though i hope to perfect that so that i get it more consistently.

I havent heard every digital front end in every system so in this regard i will suspend jugdement.

I not sure what you mean by extreme Vertigo , but the cartridge I liked best was a Lyra Helikon on a Simon Yorke table . I had a bunch of different phono stages , I think the ARC 3SE was the best match . Not state of the art but not bad , this setup made most of the early digital stuff sound sterile . I no analog has come along way in the last ten years but I think digital has come even further . The price of that 8 to 10 year old rig still outweighs my currant digital setup .
Maybe you can share with us which digital player and DAC you feel , "can't pull off that last bit ".
I have several friends that spent considerable time , money and resources upgrading a turntable rig , including dedicated high end turntable stands , not to mention considerable time matching and changing other components in there system . But when it came to digital just plunked down a mid priced CD player without proper setup or matching and announced it was inferior . I think if the same time and care was taken with digital the results would surprise many . I have also found that an audio system that has been setup and voiced using an analog source won't sound right when a digital source is introduced . Regards Tim

Here's my experience with digital. I've heard emmlabs digital gear in someone elses system. A audio mechphisto one box player. A wadia 301 and i currently own a aero prima one box cd player.

The emmlabs combo , i believe it should be considered state of the art and is , what? 20,000? From memory, those systems were very resolving of instrumental timbral information but relative to what i am currently getting in my system now cannot deliver the same DEGREE of timbrel realism. I found that digital could give a high approximation of timbrel realism but in the final analysis it could not imitate the sounds of instruments that utilize woods, metals like a superb vinyl set up could.

A reference that i like to use is my all REAL wood gibson j45 and a unamplified marine band harmonica, unamplified in a quiet room. I pluck a string on my guitar and i hear the sitka spruce bodies midband warmth and its earthy tones. Some guitars are made from synthetic materials and they just cannot produce the tone of real wood guitars. Its those kinds of subtle differences that i strive to reproduce.

I'm just of the persuasion that "only materials that vibrate" can reproduce ideally "materials that vibrate"

Pluck a single string on my guitar once and let it decay til its silent. I would argue that that deceptively simple sound is extremely complex and has many components to it. (reflect on it for a moment)...Its sonic signature if stripped apart is very complex and extremely unique.

So again...I'm just of the persuasion that "only materials that vibrate" can BEST reproduce "materials that vibrate"ie, instruments made of wood, metals, ie guitars, pianos, harmonicas,etc.

What i mean is.... because cartridges are transducers made of MATERIALS,ie, wood, titanium, acrylics, that ARE INTENDED TO VIBRATE with the intention of, passing on information to imitate MATERIALS that VIBRATE themselves,a wood guitar for example , they have a inherent advantage because they are the same "things" AND a optical laser is not a material meant to "transcribe" information by the means of how it vibrates , it is therefore inherently inferior. I hold this belief in humility.


Because cartridges are mechanical beasts who's performance is dependent on minuscule set up parameters it is easier to get them wrong more so than digital.

Someone can have a 5000 dollar cart, a 7000 dollar arm, a 10000 dollar turntable, etc, etc, but if the basic set up is slightly out or there is no synergy, your sound might be worse than a basic wadia 301 one box cd player! but that does not mean digital is better as i'm sure many have wrongly concluded.

I'm talking here about some very fine differences and very fine distinguishing cues and nuances. Maybe we feel we are talking about the same level of playback but in reality are not and thats the problem. Maybe all the analog set ups you heard were not executed very well.

I want to qualify all my comments on this thread by saying, that the things i have to say are dependent on how many or how few different "incarnations" of digital playback i have heard. That i have no comment on how good or how bad the emmlabs or any component is, i prefer to only comment on how those sounded in the context of a particular system.

So, though it may appear that i am making blanket statements, i am in fact not. I'm simply sharing my experiences in the narrow scope of my exposure to different sonic signatures of different systems.

Tim, in the final analysis I think and believe that each systems sound must be judged irregardless of whether or not it is a digital or analog front end and each on an individual basis, against every other... because other factors play a big part in the failure or success of a systems sound. It all comes down to how well a whole system is "executed" irregardless of format.

The things that make analog so potentially great is what also makes it so potentially bad. Sad, but i think true.

So, my bias is that cartridges have more potential to be better music transducers than digital files because they are like things they intend to imitate... they are things that vibrate.

And my EXPERIENCE thus far confirms that.

Probably the best digital i have ever enjoyed was watching nirvana unplugged on dvd through the rest of my system from a player that i picked up for $50 used on craigslist (at one time it retailed for 1200).

The sound was absolutely amazing.

That is a well recorded sparse sound and there is the visual cues too which all helped to create a wonderful spellbinding experience. Not to mention the songs themselves were great.

Tim, my opinions are not static or rigid, they are pliable and open to change.
Hi you must be Mick Jagger!!!!!

Yes. I am!