A large part of the enjoyment for many is tweaking and moving up the chain to produce more realistic sound.
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I must have been looking for a downgrade, not an upgrade. I found solace from moving down the chain, not up the chain. I broke free of the chain of command. Lol I unloaded my Sennheiser 600s and all tube Class A headphone amp with WWII Tung Sol rectifier and ’52 Sylvania Badboys and uber modded Oppo 103 for the peace and harmony of a vintage Sony Walkman cassette player and Walkman CD player and Sony ultralight headphones. And never looked back. No more power cords, house AC, interconnects, big honking transformers, fuses, grounding issues, break in or warm up. No more stress from wall outlets, outlet covers, room treatments, capacitor rolling, EMI/RFI, tube rolling, No more teacher’s dirty looks.
I did the same thing geoff, except took it one step further. I now only collect and listen to wind-up music boxes that only play one song at a time. They use no electricity, look cool, easy to store, require vertually no maintanance and fun for all ages. The downside is, by the time I get back to the listening position from the music box stand, some of the song has already played. I guess I could listen near-field. BTW: I found a good sand filled 24" stand works best.
The human condition is always looking for the next best thing. Be it audio,boats, bikes,jewelry,timepieces,vacations,homes,sex,mates,pets,planes,trains,automobiles etc;etc. Anything that the lust of the flesh and the pride of life can muster up between our birth and death,we all will eventually crave... So to be happy with "what you have" really is not what most people want. We live in a world of play now and pay latter. ymmv
I agree with Mapman. My family has proven it to me that one can be an audiophile and not change. For the most part they have the same gear for years and kept on enjoying music. They did acquire pieces of gear through the years here and there that they were curious about but were happy with what they have. When I tell them about the used market and how some people just cycle through gear they are amazed.
Having recently turned 65 has changed my perspective quite a bit. Awareness of my mortality, impending eventual death, and number of hours left here to listen to music, has resulted in me letting go of the impulse to buy equipment, and to instead focus solely on the music itself. The sound of my system is good enough that I can forget about it. The suspension of disbelieve, as they say about movies.
Each person can only speak for themselves, but I personally find that as time goes by, I feel more satisfied with what I have, knowing that it is far from ultimate, but still effectively communicates music to me in an enjoyable way.
I still occasionally as budget permits, make well considered changes or refinements to (hopefully) improve the listening experience, but my former sense of urgency, and sometimes costly and senseless moves are in the past.
I am one of those who has little problem staying put for long periods, though it may take a while to reach that sweet spot of system synergy.
I did not change my system in the U.S. for 15 years after having spent a couple of years tweaking and auditioning different components and cables, etc.
I am currently in Europe, and am developing a second system, and probably will make a couple of changes before settling in for the longer haul.
After a four-year process of upgrades, a process which started out fairly slowly, last year reached "fever pitch", I am just about "done" with upgrades for now. As I learn more about room conditioning, I'll be installing some more bass traps, but I think (for now) I'm done with equipment upgrades.
I know that sounds strange to some of my audio buddies, the word "done", but I'm really happy with the performance of my system and until I get the hots to make changes (which is not at all likely, at least in the near future), I'll sit back and enjoy the beautiful sounds I've created!
Largely out of fear of making a costly mistake, I go slow when considering upgrades. I had a pair of speakers for 9 years that really didn't work for me. I upgraded the front end and source gear, added acoustical treatments to the room, and upgraded cables to make sure none of these things were holding the speakers back. They weren't. Five years ago I finally replaced those speakers with speakers that I tried based solely on reviews and the forums here. They were returnable, so I took a shot.
Well, it was a home run. It was just lucky synergy with all my gear. No, my rig is not a big bucks rig, much of it purchased used, and it has been largely static for the last four years. Upgrades simply haven't been an option economically, anyway. But I really enjoy listening to my system whenever I get the chance, and only occasionally do I hear something that bothers me. And that's most often the fault of the source material.
I love discovering new music, and have over 1000 CDs and downloads on my Amazon Wish List, but very little hope of ever buying them all. That said, I have hundreds of LPs from record shows that I have yet to listen to, so they will be new for me, at least.
Am I an audiophile? Well, I might upgrade some things if I had the money, but that doesn't mean I am unhappy with my system as it is. I am very active in my local audio society, and through it I get to hear all sorts of gear - DIY, high-end, entry level, vintage, etc. - and I can't remember when a system I heard made me feel bad about my own system. Even if a system is clearly superior to my own, I think about the money that system costs and how relatively little I spent on mine, and I feel a sense of great accomplishment, of real "bang for the buck." I even enjoy music in the car through a reasonably good car stereo (in a rather noisy car, though), so I am definitley a music lover. But since I was not happy with my old speakers, and did not spend much time listening to music on them, I would say that I am indeed an audiophile.
I dunno. Went from constantly looking to tweak and upgrade to basically staying the same for the past couple of years or so ... mostly due to time/money constraints. Somewhere in the process I went from listening to my equipment to listening to music. Now I sometimes find myself thinking "boy, that sounds pretty damn good" - even though I haven't changed or upgraded anything. (Replacing burned out tube doesn't count :-)
No. No way. Besides, happiness is an abstraction that I hope I will never reach. Process is really more important. Listening to music is a process too, and good equipment helps big time. But I try not to give in to obsessive upgrading all the time, including in my mind.
As I am sure many others I too find the source, the recording/mastering, to almost always be the weakest link, and that's something that I can do nothing about. Most of what I listen to was not recorded/mastered well, but sometimes not too bad. But I do hunt for the best sounding pressings, so in some cases I have original US, original UK, original Japanese, early Japanese reissue and maybe also original Dutch and German. I don't listen to classical jazz or classical music, though I do like some neo-classical albums that are all in digital. You could try The Umbersun by Elend. So dark.
Anyway, returning to the original question, with reasonably good recording my system sounds acceptable to me. Well, it's only entry-level $15k set-up with three source components.
Yes. It's taken about 15 years of experimenting and a lot of time, money and negotiating with my wife, but my system is awesome. I often have goose bumps and am almost moved to tears at the sounds coming from it. I consider my setup a proper 2 channel system, listen mostly to vinyl for serious listening and although I bought almost everything used here on Agon, all new it would retail for close to 100k. I think my passion, dedication over 15 years and investment qualify me as an "audiophile"
There is almost always room for improvement on your sound, but some of the tweaks are ridiculous and some people "buy" right in to them. If you're looking for a huge improvement in your sound, as most of us are, I would suggest concentrating on tuning your room. You can have the best system, that money can buy, but if your room is lacking, you're wasting your money.
To me what it is to be an audiophile is to be one who loves listening to music and always wants to hear it a little better if they can. The last three words "if they can" are critical. All engineering is a matter of design compromises and optimizing your result given the constraints you have. For audiophiles, the most obvious is budget. But there are other considerations - compatibility of a prospective new component with the existing system, WAF, room size and character, etc.
Contentment doesn't come having a perfect system. It simply comes from within your own heart. Just enjoy the tunes and enjoy the process of learning about your system. If you want the most pleasure, then DIY is the way to go. There's little more pleasurable than building your own gear and having it perform as well or better than a kilobuck commercial component.
Yes....like motorcycles and motorcyclists when they gather, "You run what you brung."
Remember? We used to listen and be happy with equipment that now we'd equate with paper cups and string for communication.
One could sniff and laugh at what I listen to. Others might look at it as more on the order of 'test equipment', which is how I relate to it of late. Not 'flawless', to be sure, but 'suitable' and 'enough' for my ears and budget.
Chase the light at the end of the tunnel if it suits you. After a time, the zeros behind the decimal point will not be discernible anymore. I reached that point awhile ago; now I simply amuse myself and not be concerned with reading reviews and reactions of those who get paid to do so and have the privilege of being able to do so.
I could be crass and relate certain levels of our hobby's extremism to more *ahem* 'personal pursuits*, but people buy Lamborghini's and Bugatti's, yachts, private aircraft, and luxury homes as well....
Not my level, not my thing...