Mo' money. Mo' problems.

I'm sure this has been discussed in a few posts over the years, but seeing as how we didn't burn up in the Mayan apocalypse, I thought I'd float something that has been on my mind as we close out 2012.

I think Notorious B.I.G. said it best:

The more money we come across, the more problems we see.

That is, in audio, as I have gradually spent more and more on high-end gear, the more critical and discerning I have become. The more I expect out of this stuff. I've spent more this year on gear (and vinyl) than ever before, so is it just a coincidence that I've had more issues than ever before? Be it tube matching, power issues, faulty amps (had two in a row, then jettisoned the brand), cable matching, fuses, tracking alignment, concern over my home's electrical, wondering about a two rinse wash vs. three rinse process, footers, computer optimization, high res file types, where is that hum coming from?, was that a pop or did my wife turn on the washer?... the endless quest for perfection... you know what I mean? (I hope.) Seems like each new upgrade opens a door for another or some other nit picky thing...

When everything is working perfectly, of course, it's a drug-free high. Total bliss. Lightyears beyond where I was or what I ever would have imagined as a kid.

But there's always going to be 'something,' isn't there? Are these bumps along the way just a part of the hobby - or are the bumps the hobby? How can I make 2013 the year I stop the BS and just enjoy the music?
Someone's going to tell you to just enjoy the journey. Dude, it's a freakin' cult, they gottcha' and they're never gonna' set you free.

Just click your heels together three times...
I have a hunch Geoff has already tried that. Still a no-show.
And we still aren't in Kansas anymore !!!! :)
I'm on my 3rd accord. They are bullet proof, do well in all weather, and don't cost much to own or operate. My current red/ivory V-6 leather coupe with navigation is pretty spunky, handles well, and looks pretty good. What more could you ask? Yet, I want a Porche 911, although I suppose I could settle for something more practical like a BMW 335 twin turbo 6 speed manual coupe in black/black. What gives me pause is not just the amount of money it costs to purchase, its that I don't want the ongoing maintenance issues.
I had an opportunity to extensively audition a rig featuring an Esoteric K-01. It was a bit of a frustrating experience, because it wouldn't play half of the CD's I brought. These were not copies, not scratched, red book, SACD, no matter which. I am quite sure I would not trade one straight up for my ModWright sony.
My point is that design of anything requires compromise intended to achieve a balanced set of performance attributes. At some point, when one desires to optimize one attribute to its extreme, it becomes necessary to compromise others. That is just the way it works.
Pressure to be above the norm in all things consumerism and popular culture are tough to resist in western culture. Call 888 audio addict. Operators are standing by.
"I suppose I could settle for something more practical like a BMW 335 twin turbo 6 speed manual coupe in black/black." (Brownsfan)

Since this thread seems pretty OT anyway, I'll venture a suggestion to Brownsfan: if you're worried about ongoing maintenance issues, then don't get a twin turbo version recent bmw. Apparently the twin turbos are a problem (even tho I also want one, X3 or 1 series maybe).

Honestly, you can own a new or used bmw w/o unusual expense on maintenance--and you only live once. Go drive some new or used bmw's--you may never go back. I could go on & on about bmw's, but this is not the place, & I have to go back to obsessing about audio equipment....
Steve, thanks for the heads up on the twin turbos. I noticed the latest consumer report rated the 328 much better than average on reliability. I normally buy used, so a nice low mileage certified may be in my future. I'm a firm believer in the power of delayed gratification, but I'm 59. Can't delay much longer. I've paid my dues, its time to have some fun.
I can give you a few tips on what you can do this year to make your system sound better and be more enjoyable to listen to. I'm laughing as I type this because you'll probably think I'm crazy when you see my list. That said, I do really recommend doing the following.

1. Stop reading equipment reviews. All of them. Period. You don't need them.

2. Be honest with yourself as to they type of music you are really going to listen to on your system. No sense in running around with a bunch of 10-20 audiophile recordings to test equipment and then go home play some poorly recorded heavy metal.

3. Never, under any circumstances, use cables, accessories or tubes to fix problems in your system. If it comes to that, you messed up and you need to fix the problem.

4. If you end up making a mistake and buy a piece of equipment that you don't like, go back and re read #3.

5. Don't fall into the same solution for every problem trap. Take this web site, for example. Any time someone has a problem, the same people always recommend the same fixes for every time. Room, room, room, cables, cables, cables. You get the idea. Maybe you did fix a brightness issue by covering up some glass in your listening room. Next time, though, it may be a metal tweeter or a preamp.

6. If there is one component in your system that you absolutely MUST get right, its the preamp. I guarantee that at least 90% of all audiophiles overlook the importance of a good preamp. In almost every problem system that I've heard, the preamp was at least partially responsible for the poor sound quality. Also, I understand that its very hard to convince people of this. Its truly a breakthrough product for most people. Once you get the right preamp everything gets easier.

7. This last one kind of ties in most of the other things I mention. Try to keep your component selection as neutral as possible. Buying a tube preamp to balance out a solid state amp or a soft phono cart to balance a harsh speaker, is extremely difficult to do. I can tell by reading your OP that this is your main issue. Every time you buy a component, it makes some changes right away that you like and you have a positive response. Over long term listening, new things pop up that you now have to deal with.

I'm not saying that any of this is easy, because its not. Most people will disagree with me on most of my ideas. I stand by them, though. If you can start out and honestly do what I recommend in #1 and keep #6 in mind, you will take a big step forward. It will put you back in control of your system.
I think it's normal to become more 'aware' of any flaws the more time and money that you invest into that particular effort. Whatever that effort may be, audio, cars, boats, etc.

For me, the best way to put things in perspective is to step back and sometimes start over again. By step back I mean to stop reading all the glossy rags, reviews, and audio websites that will constantly wet your appetite for newer and alledgedly better stuff. By starting over I'm talking about a major downsizing of my system, I've done this a couple of times for various reasons. It's a way of getting off the merry-go-round for a while anyway.

I find that when I downsize, or step back, that I tend to listen less critically and just start to enjoy the music again. Yeah, I know it's not as good as my old big rig, but I also realize just how good it sounds for about 25% of the money that I had invested in the big rig. Close enough to make me wonder why I get so wrapped up with constant 'upgrades' for years, or even decades at a time.

Enjoy the music,
I feel for those who just want to enjoy their music but get caught up in high end hystera. Heh is largely Bout vendors keeping willing customers on the hook. Why do some find it so hard to just enjoytheir music? I have my opinions why and how to escape the trap, in essence, it boils down to getting just a few fundamentals right. If you can do that, all the rest becomes of little or no real significance, nothing more.

I suppose audio is not the only domain in life where people allow others to trap them in a cycld of worrying about what others want them to rather than what should really matter to them.
Recent Wall Street Journal financial advice column (yea, go figure); Kurt Vonnegut ribbing Joseph Heller at a lavish party hosted by a billionaire on Shelter Island "How do you feel knowing he probably made more in one day than all your proceeds from Catch 22?" Heller's reply; " Yes, but I have something he'll never have....enough."
I've got to say that in my experience audiophiles are a particularly quirky obsessive-compulsive lot. By nature, most of us will never be completely satisfied or finished and I suppose that is why we have high-end companies catering to our neurosis.

Many times I've gotten my system to such a wonderful state of mind-blowing bliss that I do ask myself why can't this one be good enough? And is absolutely is good enough... at least until the next Mk-II or Mk-III version is introduced.

What I have now is 2 stereo systems and one multi-channel A/V system and I've got them all sounding incredible. But I'm sure I won't stop. Why should I!

The back-handed slap in my face comes from the realization that no one else cares about or even appreciates what I've managed to achieve. I've tried to start an audiophile group here in Tucson and I don't get any replies. So now I'm trying to start an A/V Concert group hoping that throwing in the video aspect will attract potential members.

But my family and I do enjoy all the music and videos here in the home so maybe that will have to be enough for me. And since my systems have matured maybe I can finally say "Good Enough" and get off this merry-go-round perhaps devoting more time to other pursuits. Maybe...
Bonham- I think we've all been there, to one degree or another and I think
there are several reasons for these 'road bumps':
1. Our expectations are higher with fancier gear;
2. Some of the gear is on the 'cutting edge' and is more prone to failure
than mass produced stuff, whether because it comes from small shops that
don't have the number of units in the field or because it is pushing the limits
of design or implementation.
Frankly, even consumer grade (non-high end box shop type gear) can have
its share of problems. Some of this may have to do with the implementation
of software in gear- just like cars, you get the bugs.
3. I haven't had many outright tube failures lately, but I've certainly had my
share of tube noise problems over the years- this is nothing new, it comes
with the territory.
4. Vinyl pressing is pretty inconsistent too- not sure if it is worse than the
old days (lost art) or if we are just more likely to bitch when we spend 50
bucks or more on some fancy pressing and it's noisy or warped.
Brownsfan: on cars, my wife has had an endless string of BMWs which she
uses as a daily driver and we've had very, very few problems over the
years. (I think we are on our 7th one over the course of about 15 years. We
only keep them for a few years, so we've never run past the warranty
period. BMW has a pretty all inclusive maintenance program for new cars,
and I think the same can be gotten- not sure- if you buy a certified car from
an authorized dealer, used). We managed to avoid the 7 series when it
changed in the early 2000's, i know those had engine issues and lot's of
people hated the iDrive ergonomics, it's mostly been 3 series, with the odd
'M' version, after our 2001 740i got turned in- that was a terrific car and
surprisingly fast and nimble for its relatively low HP and size. Interestingly, I
think now the 7 series has been 'debugged,' the cars are just too big for
me, though I certainly wouldn't mind riding in the back :)
Wife just got a new 335 coupe with stick, that light metallic blue with saddle
leather. Hope we don't have turbo issues, I thought those got sorted after
the first few years. My only real gripe with BMW is run flats- I just hate 'em!
Buy a used, well- sorted Porsche 993 and never look back. It's one of the
only cars I've kept for any length of time and I've been through many more,
far more exotic, faster cars. Life is too short when you are having fun and
too long when you are not.
not to worry, Obama and his ilk are planning to take it all away.
+1 to everything Zd542 said, esp. the importance of the pre-amp being the backbone of your system (even if it's a great passive like the Lightspeed). And also what Whart said about it not being unusual for high performance audio (or cars) to have higher failure rates for the reasons he said. Remember that any design is a compromise. When performance is the primary design criterion sometimes reliability (or you could call it longevity) suffers. And as far as the Beemer goes, if you go for a certified pre-owned, they do extend the no-cost maintenance coverage, but I'd skip the 2011 3 series. My wife's '11 328 isn't half the car her 2002 was. Heavier, slower, much poorer fuel economy (but hey it does have retractable side mirrors!)
Bring me back a T-shirt, T.
As for the Honda Accord comment which I have owned several Hondas until I bought a VW and yes the VW requires more maitenance but is a hell of a lot more engaging to drive. I no longer buy appliance type Automobiles. I have a 2007 Jetta GLI with a 2.0 turbo and that handles and accelerates at much better than any Honda I have owned. I have had six Honda (s) / Acuras. My 2007 Jetta is a more fun car than my old 1998 Acura NSX.
Swamp~ a 2002 is a thing of joy. I fondly remember the small bumper Tii from what- 1973? They are tiny and spartan compared to the modern 'small' BMW. (I wouldn't turn away from a 3.0 CS either, but wouldn't want to pay to get it right).
I'm a car guy and have had the good fortune to have quite a few very cool cars over the years, but the older I've gotten, the more I appreciate the more primitive vehicles. Decent brakes are pretty important (I had one pre-war car with cable brakes, you drove a little differently knowing that you weren't just going to press the pedal and stop), but beyond that, I'm all for stripped down simplicity. Most car makers, even those who make serious sportscars, have gone in the opposite direction. I guess it's time for a Morgan 3 wheeler!
Whart- Actually I meant yr 2002 325xi (she always wanted a model 2002 but not for a daily driver). We bought it after she finished 5 surgeries followed by 16 rounds of chemo. We both really loved that car, but when the monthly repair bills got to be more than the lease payments for a new one, she traded it in (and really regrets it). Maybe look for an M series from that year when our son gets out of law school.
I happened to be in Germany during the late 60's and early 70's. I remember the 2002tii BMWs flying by me on the autobahn. The rear tires on the 2002, at speed, looked as if they were riding on the inner sidewalls.
BTW, the BMW 3.0cs cost 7000$ new, German spec, at the then exchange rate. I think it was around 4 mark to the dollar. Road and Track called it the most beautiful car in the world.

Mapman, you are like a lighthouse in a storm.
I suggest you enroll in a 12 step program, quickly as your bound to bankrupt in 2013
Forgot, what is the matter with you people, making money is the problem. Great article in the wall street journal today at

As Gideon told a skeptical customer; "The more you spend, the closer you get to musical truth". Enough said!

Love this hobby.
"The more you spend, the closer you get to musical truth"

You have to look at the economics of what goes into the development and production of the product. More expensive does not necessarily mean better. Some companies (like the one in the articleand many of the products sold no doubt) have very high overhead, much of which has nothing to do with sound quality. I believe, most european imports these days carry a premium due to currency exchange rates for example.

Best values come from companies that invest heavily in R&D and quality control while keeping overhead as low as possible in general.

Nothing unique to high end audio here, though high end audio often presents some extreme cases in terms of costs and prices it seems.
Thanks all for the responses and advice. Esp. Zd542 and Whart.

I just re-read my post, and I think the best way I can "..make 2013 the year I stop the BS and just enjoy the music," is to: stop the BS and enjoy the music.

I'm not suffering from upgrade-itess or HiFiOCD or tweakerism as much as I've legitimately had gear failures that have frustrated the hell out of me. Now I'm listening for problems instead of the music. I just need to get my stuff working correctly and remind myself how lucky I am to be able to afford what I have, and how lucky I am to be living only blocks away from a dealer who knows me personally and has been extremely pro-active in taking care of these issues and compensating me for my troubles. Try getting that from a big box store.

Also, next time I buy a new car I'm going to the best source on the internet for insight: Audiogon.
Well said, Mapman. There are guys right here on the Gon who will build you an amp to rival anything on the planet.

Surprised at the NSX comment.
I like the "7 tips" by zd542.
My problem is I like to buy stuff. I keep the capitalism just rolling along in this country.
I also like to OP's moniker. Although "Palmerpert" would be my choice. :'}
Wow, the 7 Tips by zd542 are right on the money! These should be posted somewhere as a "sticky" and re-read often. I especially agree with the linestage tip. The linestage is the single most important component and often the most difficult to get just right, at least in my experience.
Good thing you were not into tube amps in the late 70's through the 80's. When I turned on my ARC equipment back then I did a Hail Mary first then a thank God when they didn't go pop. I always liked the sound of tubes and still do but back then tube equipment was not very dependable.
zd542, that is the best and most useful post I've read on any audio board in as long as I can remember; agreed on all points.
Zd542, I had a relative with an expensive system that really sounded crappy about 15 years ago.
I figured his pre was the problem , as you say, it's always the first place to look.
I brought over a $ 200 buck Bottlehead Foreplay to replace
his 5 K whatever, after a few hours listening he agreed it sounded better(much better really) but he must have a head cold as that could not be possible.

He was a ENT doc, for whats thats worth.