Is it possible for something to be the best?

Since there really is not difinative standard when it comes to musical reproduction, is it possible for a piece of equipment to be the best. Or will there ever be "the best system"?
Live music is the sound we are trying to reproduce but even that varies from venue to venue. I'm guessing not many people have actually had a live band/orchestra play in their listening room so to what are we comparing our systems? Can we trust our memory to acurately remind use what a concert we heard several hours, days, or years ago sounded like? Is it realistic to compare my listening room to a $50,000,000 dollar theater designed specificly for the arts?

I'm obviously not suggesting we quit trying but is this hobby/obsession an exercise in futility?
I've been wondering for a long time if the best componant in a great system isn't the listeners imagination. Any comments?
Yes, it is possible for a component to be the "best".The problem is that "best" is a subjective term. In terms of absolute audio quality, the "best" is generally related to the "best" that the listener has previously heard. A person that has only heard boom boxes, might think that a low cost separates system is the "best". One of the best ways to enjoy your system, once you have purchased it, is to just listen to it, and stop going around auditioning other equipment. When you decide you want a change or you need something new because of equipment failure, then go audition some new products. It is a rule that if you go looking around long enough, you will find something that sounds better than what you've got. If you are not prepared to buy this new stuff, then you will only be constantly reminding yourself that there is something better that you don't have. This leads to unhappiness with your present equipment. Just enjoy what you have, and when you are ready to make a purchase, then go out and listen to the stuff that you can buy, and get the "best" you can afford. Some people, like myself, can buy a very good product, knowing it is not the "best", and be happy with it. This is where "value" comes into play. My system is not the "best" at anything except being the "best I could afford". Since I could not afford anything higher, I am satisfied that I have got the "best" for my buck.
Very good explanation TWL!
Twl is right -- but there is at least one other dimension of subjectivity. Two people listening to two systems might have different opionions of "best". Since every component makes some sort of compromise (e.g., a bit tighter bass vs. a bit wider soundstage) and every listener has her/his own priorities of what is most important, there will be a wide variety of "best" at any price point. The trick is to understand your own priorities, explicitly make the trade-off decisions and then be happy with the best available for your tastes. I have found that people are often unhappy later because they did not acknowledge what they are giving up when they purchased their gear (this is not a price issue, it arises from no component doing everything perfectly). Of course, people also become less happy with their gear as musical tastes change, listening experience increases or priorities change. Good question. I'm looking forward to reading other's responses.
"Best" is a very questionable term, because it invites uncertainty, a probably very unfortunate competitiveness, unfortunate for the pocketbook and one's peace of mind and last not least the futile and time consuming attempt to rationalise in objective terms, what we purely subjectively percieve to be "best". It also probably leads to the misconception, that, if we try hard enough, we can REALLY simulate the live event sooner or later in our listening rooms, if we take live music as our benchmark.
Since we all seem to agree, that "best" can only be subjective, why not settle on a term, which though subjective, will give us more comfort for the soul, lets us enjoy the music more and approach other "best" systems with a more relaxed and friendly fashion. What I have in mind, could perhaps best be described with the term " musical ". Of course it is just as subjective and as a descriptive form similarly lacking in precision as the word "best". It however describes a quality in a system, which will satisfy the soul of a true musiclover. "Best" certainly doesn't, because "better" is always just around the corner, at least that is what our dealers or the journals and all the advertising hype tell us. So lets nor fall into that trap. It is a sure way to fall prey to an addictive syndrome, we are all familiar with. Once we find our system musical, it is of course not BEST, but good enough for us, because it helps to induce a state of mind of relaxed and yet attentive and grateful happyness. After all, what more would you need from a hobby. Cheers,
Yes this is absolutely possible! My wife is the best, she has remained with me for more than thirty years regardless of how much money I spent on my audio gear.

That is a state of the art performance.
Albert, if Detlof is right, then it stands to reason that your wife is also musical :-)
No, if you mean "best for everybody." First of all, we all listen in different rooms, and a speaker that sounds great in one room can sound awful in another. Second, no audio system can replicate a live concert perfectly, and we each have our own idea about the best tradeoffs. And, finally, none of us can listen to everything. So the most you can say about a system is, "This is the system I like best in this room, of all the systems I've heard here."
I guess the question I was getting at is: can the best still be the best if "best" is subjective. To use the example of AlbertPorters wife. If she is the best wife, she would be the best wife for all of us. Albert can be as fond of her as possible, but does that mean that someone else wouldn't say her bottom end is too loose, or her treble is too shrill, or her midrange is bloated. Is it possible that she is still the best inspite of any one of these other statements also being true.
Does it mean anything if listener #1 says Krell sounds like crap while listener #2 says tubes are just too slow? Speaking in absolute rather than objective terms, of course.
Does the best exist in the real world???
No disrespect to albertporters wife but she was as good an example as was handy at the moment.
Okay, if you want to pin it down hard, the "best" is to be defined by a set of parameters. The term "best" only applies when there are parameters set. If the parameters are measurable, then a given item that measures best could be called "best". If listening tests are the parameter, then the listener's idea of best are the ones that fit his taste. ETC. for other criteria. Also, with audio, the system matching is important, because simply assembling all the "best" items doesn't ensure the "best" sound. This includes the room, as Bomarc says. I could safely say that no one system would be the "best" for everyone. This includes price. The "best" is of no use to you if you cannot afford it, other than as a reference point. This also includes experience. Your idea of "best" may change as your experiences widen and deepen. As I stated above, the best you can hope for is to get the "best" for you.
Can God create a rock so heavy that he can't lift it? Not for me I'm an atheist in audio as well as religion. No bests here.
Marty, you're God's too small. You need an upgrade!
There is always a best in every category. If you don't believe me, simply as a manufacturer of any product and they'll surely be able to tell you what is best and why : ) Sean
Sean, if I asked every maker line level pre-amps which is best each one will have a reason why theirs is it.
I didn't start this thread to make a mockery of all the equipment out there or marginalize everyones system. I just wonder if it's possible for anything to really be the best. As an example; SETs measure badly but sound great, at least to their buyers. If both of those statements are true can SETs ever be considered to be the best?
It has been said that pursuing sensation dulls the feelings. Is pursuing the best system actually dulling our ability to enjoy listening to music?
No, there is no "best." It would be undemocratic and elitist to think so!

At the very most there is a "best of the moment" which closely resembles Andy Warhol's comment that "we will all be famous for 15 minutes." Fortunately, for the manufacturerers this is just long enough for us to have spent our money. Unfortunately, when the moment passes you are likely stuck with yesterday's hype and nothing goes stale faster than yesterday's hype.

Time to upgrade!!

I remain,
Twl is right on; no absolute best is possible. Best for your music, in your room, for your taste, at your budget? Yes, you can accompish that - just be prepared to be open minded and do a lot of listening. An important point to remember: each of us hear and perceive music differently, so the best for one person is probably not the best for another. This is undoubtedly why high end audio is such an intriguing hobby; there are so many choices and such differing points of view.

If by chance you do someday find "the best" system, please repost and let us all know what it is so the rest of us can immediately re-mortgage our houses and jump on the bandwagon!
Nrchy, with a moniker like that, i assumed that you wouldn't mind someone throwing a little "chaos" into your thread : )

Honestly though, i have messed around with enough gear to come to the conclusion that there is no "best". It is how each individual component melds together in the system. I have heard "top notch" components assembled into a system that sounded like crap. I've also heard systems composed of "budget" gear that absolutely smoked. As such, i've come to put less faith in reputation / brand names / individual performance and learned to live by trial and error. The only thing that brand names / reputation / individual performance may give you is an idea of what the house sound of that company may be. Whether or not you like it or it is compatible with the rest of your system would be personal. As was mentioned earlier in the thread, that would make it someone's "personal best within the confines of that system in that room". Whether or not someone could duplicate those same results with an identical system in another room with different AC is another story. There can be a "best" under only VERY specific conditions. Sean
I have been trying to get people to think in absolute terms when they refer to their systems rather than the subjective whims they currently use to describe their obsession. I love to see/hear people actually think. Many of these threads are so meaningless. It's fun to engage in some intelligent intercourse via AudiogoN.
So there is no best pre-amp, or amp, or turntable? What about the Rockport turntable? Does that mean Monet was not the best impressionist painter or Greene and Greene were not the best architects of the prairie/mission style. Can't there be a mathmatical equation to determine the best interconnect?
It just seems as though something must be the best at any given time. Am I wrong again?!?
No Nrchy, it's just that when such statements are made there are people ready to jump in the discussion that care more about the art of argument than the point of the subject being discussed.

For what it is worth, I agree Claude Monet was the best impressionist painter. I love Renoir and Degas almost as much, at least when discussing French impressionist art that preceded the impressionist music movement.

The Rockport is the best turntable, all things considered. To judge in a fair and absolute manner, every facet of the product must be considered.

The Walker Proscenium performs as well musically, but when every point, such as finish, fit and attention to detail is tallied, the Rockport wins. Sometime you must ask (and answer TRUTHFULLY) if you could have this upgrade for free, would you prefer it over what you have now? Much of the time the afford ability of an object plays a huge role in our judgement.

I suspect I have already furnished enough fuel for a two week tirade.
To add to my above post, I do feel that there are absolute bests, but the parameters for judgement must be set. And as Albert points out, not all will agree. As an aside, were the impressionists experimenting with an early form of digital representation, using large "pixels"?
I beg to differ that the Rockport is the best.Have you ever heard the Audio Tekne?
There are plenty of bests. The best sex you've ever had. The best day you've ever had. The best system you've ever heard. The best looking woman you've ever seen. The best wine you've ever had. Best Food. Best Friend.Best Car Best Best It's all up to you.
HiFifarm; The issue here though is not what I think is the best wine or sex, or system. The issue is what is the best regardless of my opinion. Just because I think something is the best doesn't mean it is. There is a huge difference between my subjective opinion and supported fact.
I guess
Since personal opinions are based on subjective qualities, Nrchy's statement about "supported fact" would mean that one could only base "good" or "bad" products on something that was quantifiable i.e. test bench measurements.

Since we all know that:

A) specifications can't give us all the answers with the current testing procedures that we have


B) we all hear things slightly differently and have different takes on how things "should" sound

the only logical conclusion would be:

C) there is no way to call ANY audio component "the best". After all, you can never listen to ONE component without their being other influences on how it performs and what you hear. It all operates as a system and should be judged as such. That is why "system synergy" is what matters and NOT what brands / models you use to get there. Bottom line is "does this SYSTEM perform as it should ?". If it doesn't, you might have to change individual components. Changing individual components may effect the system as a whole, but you will never hear that component by itself or know exactly what each piece is contributing to the total presentation. There are just TOO many interactive variables taking place at one time to try to quantify the situation

As such, one should buy & use what works "best" for them in the confines of their system and personal preferences regardless of measurements, brand names or costs. The only constraint to this is that we would obviously all be stuck with "the BEST that i could afford within the confines of my room, system and personal tastes". Sean

PS... I've got the "best" system in MY house to MY ears. There is nothing "subjective" about that, as it is pure "fact" and uncontestable : )
Sean, exactly...and undoubtedly it is "musical". (Just to have the last word...(-; ..)
Thanks for the input. This was really an interesting discussion. I am delighted to know that I have the best system and the rest of you will have to catch me even if your system is more expensive and measures better. Oh well, I gotta go there's a beautiful woman singing across the room who deserves my attention.
Nrchy, congrats, you've GOT IT!