I would have a lot more money when I was young.
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Interesting question Bill. I guess the two main things that I have learned through this journey that I would do differently if starting over are: to be be more patient and to be content with simplicity. Don't lose sight of the goal, which is to listen to music. Sometimes our systems can become so complex that our systems overwhelm us, and we can't see the music for the equipment. I'd probably just grab a nice tube integrated amp w/ phono and forget about it.
Also, patience is a virtue. There is no rush to get 'it' now....wait a day/week/month/year and get what you want at a better price.
I had four JBL L200 studiomasters in the early 70's.
I ended up selling all four, and have always regretted it. I wish I had kept a spare pair just for the urge to let it loose. They were memorable and I had a ton of fun with those beasts.
I have more accuracy, transparency, and other audio checklist stuff in my current system but I miss the efficiency and dynamics that the JBL's produced.
I would go all PC based (Mac actually). That is still my current plan...another project for when I get the urge/time. Upload all the CD's to a lossless RAID server system and junk my mega changers and go with a high quality low jitter DAC or DSP system (master clock on the DAC preferably)- simpler and will no doubt sound slightly better. I'll keep a tray player only for DVD and HD discs. My problem until now has been that I like music too much!! Gear is only secondary to the music. Fiddling with jewel cases and feeding a CD tray like an assembly line worker on a player that takes a minute to change a disc is just not an enjoyable thing for me - I simply jump around too much in genres etc.
I am not sure I would do anything differently if we are talking audio equipment here. I like my system. To do something different would mean not liking my system.
There is no need to go back and change things, since there is nothing stopping me from changing things now if I wanted to. There are some things I wish I still owned, but they would probably be worn out by now if I had kept them. A lot of them can be replaced used anyway.
As a matter of fact there is something I repurchased later. I sold it years ago for $1000; bought the same thing last year for $185. If I had kept it I'd be $815 poorer.
Steelhead....I have a pair of JBL L80 sitting around in storage, probably never to be used. Not as big, but similar.
I have been interested in audio for the last 36 years and have always had multiple systems. I have been actively swapping out equipment in the name of upgrading only for the last 7 years. So what did I forget 7 years ago ... very simple, upgrading is vertical, not horizontal. A few top pieces trumps several middle level pieces any day. Wasted a few grand screwing around with a number of small popular monitors not worth snot, when one really good pair would have done the trick.
I agree completely with Jond.
Audiogon has saved me a ton of money.
(Luckily, I only bought a couple pieces of equipment before I found out about Audiogon, and those were bought either off Ebay or were consignment pieces at a dealer.)
Other than that, I am not sure if I really made any big mistakes in building my system.
Most of my regrets are software related.
I bought too many LP's that were doubles (MFSL) or just any MFSL that came into the stores where i used to shop around 1990 eventhough I didnt care for the music. I know they have some slight value above what I paid (about $10-$13 each), but I just dont have the time and inclination to sell them on ebay.
And the two titles I wished I had bought copies of I recently found on ebay or here for less than $100 each (RLJ Pop Pop Alto and Athena Rahmaninoff)
ALso wished I had bought some more UHQr;s and wish I didn't sell my almost unplayed Sinatra MFSL box set for less than $300 after I realized I wasn't a gig Frank fan)
As far as gear, my evolution has been pretty good, and no real wrong turns. except I have not seemed to sell all of my previous gear when I upgraded over the last 2 years. Have to list it here and be prepared to get what I can.
One another note though, I have some gear from very small little known manufacturers (like Source technology Speakers) that are excellent but hard to sell since they are not known.
I am still tempted by these deals of amazing sound quality for spectacular prices, (often factory direct) but again they will be hard to sell when the times comes (unless of course the company really takes off and become an audiophile staple). I will never again think of a Wilson buyer as making a mistake, as those can be sold in a heartbeat.
I am seriously thinking about buying a new speaker line because it represents an outstanding value, but of course will someday be facing a similar dilmena as my Source Tech's but on a much higher financial plane.
One thing I don't regret was 16 years ago buying some used Atma-sphere MA1's. I played with them on and off over the years, always being tempted back to solid state if many tubes blew out at once, but eventually I retubed them and found they sounded better than SS. I had no trouble selling those for a good price and upgrading to brand new MA1's.
So I guess well regarded tube gear is perhaps a better investment?
I would have been very careful reseaching the system I like the sound of. I started by buying to much garbage from various sources. Worst of all ebay .I honestly think I have bought 3 TTs from them, cheapos of course that broke down quickly or never worked, andsame with preamps.The tube have been mostly OK but it's a hit on miss endeavor
...IF I HAD IT TO DO ALL OVER AGAIN...
...learned the piano instead of the Trumpet.
.... Bet a lot more money on joe Namath's Jets, instead of Johnny U and his Colts
...I'd have either finished college, or stayed in the military longer.
...never ever, listened to the really, really great sounding gear in the first place.
...put everything I had and then some into yahoo when it first went public.
... just bought a good receiver vs. trying to do a high end HT rig in the first place.
...would have left SS alone, and just started with tube gear and all separates.
...would have invested in better wiring right up front regardless.
while in college i didn't have a turntable and therefore no space for a record collection, so i figured i would get more records when i graduated. upon graduation i rushed out to buy a new reel to reel, a thorens TT, and some mid-fi electronics.
but i didn't forsee the disappearance of classical alblums until it was a few years too late, and the huge variety of available music was dwindling quickly. as i began to build a cd collection instead, it became apparant that some of the cd's sounded A LOT better (or one might say alot worse) than others. so i wasted some money upgrading recording quality while regretting that i already knew which vinyl records were considered top grade (these were the "$5 records" when i was in high school), but they were long gone. from wall to wall stacks of them (with no real money to spend) to cut-outs and re-issues to nothing. well, at least we had the opportunity to spend a small fortune on equipment that would make the cd's sound tolerable- lucky us!
I would have ignored HOME THEATER or atleast kept it modest and focused on 2 channel. I am 36 and right when I was making good money and out on my own the whole Dolby wave hit and I sadly invested a pretty penny in it.
I do enjoy a good movie and the surround sound my system brings, but boy if I only knew what would matter when I grew up..............................
For me, I would avoid package equipment from the mass manufacturers, read the forums at Audiogon, get an audio guru, learn the difference between open and transparent vs flashy and hot and spend a lot of time listening to live music to know what real music sounds like. Then I would gather up a budget, treat out a room and buy equipment to last a lifetime. I certainly would have gotten a turntable immediately. I didn't.
I would have avoided the constant digital upgrade hunt, and bought a forgiving and modest CD/sacd player.(like I now own) I would have invested all other money into my vinyl source.
I would have paid closer attention to the Speaker/amplifier relationship.
I would have spent the most money I could on finding the best preamp I could.
I would have bought Thiel CS7.2s first and been done with speaker choices.