Perfectionist Audio

Approximately when did listening to music at home in high fidelity become the "pursuit of perfectionist audio"? I recently saw that phrase in an issue of TAS and it encapsulated what many audiophiles are doing. I just remember that at one point people just wanted good/better/best sound and I don't think the pursuit of perfection entered into the thinking. My memory could be faulty, but that's how I remember it.
All my life I suppose my own audio journey has been more defined by my own lack of funds at almost any point along the way. Not that it bothered me all that much. To pass the time when saving up for this or that piece of gear, I read. Actually, I read and then read and then read some more. I was financially never in a position to develope any of the attitudes or sensibilities of the self-described "insane box swappers" out there, but wound up crossing scores of would-be system solutions that I'd dreamed up off the list I'd been making ever since I'd first bought my speakers for my current system back in 1990. But, to me it's always been a matter of reaching certain sonic goals - once I can say to myself that's been to done to the degree I've been missing for so long, I aparently just don't see all that much reason to go very much further with it. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I've since married and have a son to raise, but I'd managed to have gotten far enough along gear-wise before all that happened that I didn't even feel all that compromised on that front, really.

But, for example, I recently had enough money to throw at my system to have the opportunity to replace my $1200 amps with $2200 amps, and you know what?? While going through the motions, I realized that all of my amp goals were so effectively being met with the ones I have, that I really just didn't want to mess with success - something that, perhaps for the first time with me, was just a little different than the usual 'but-will-it-rilly-sound-any-better' angst that goes along with upgrading.

I'm all for system improvement. And my system is not yet complete in my eyes. But, I DO forsee a day in which it effectively WILL be (and no one will be happier for me to turn in my HiFi-nut badge and to go back to being just another music lover - but, with a huge grin plastered on my face - than me...unless it's my wife, of course).

At what point did it all turn into perfectionism? Dunno exactly, but I'm betting that the combination of marketing trends over the last couple of decades or so and the reliance by all on the internet have conspired to make for audiophiles who are either less willing, or less likely, to be as decisive about their overall pursuit any more - the internet never sleeps. I guess the pursuit of perfectionist audio, for those who have the time and money for it, is ok...I guess. But, in the end, it's as alien to my sensibilities as I suppose it is to yours - but, a sign of the times, it looks like. Regards. John
The Absolute Sound has always had the 'absolute sound' as it's goal.
So no suprise they restate it in some similar terms.
The issue to me is the audio itself is perfect vs the perfectionist 'person'??
So I would tend to question the manner in which they restated the idea. The line could be confusoing.
I second Ivan's POV and Elizabeth's as well.

It's been difficult, financially, to assemble what I want which led to the 'read, read, read' part of the equation, which led to a kind of enlightenment coupled with a temperament and discipline, of sorts. Seeing that I'd never achieve what I thought I wanted led to my settling for what I could afford: the old fox and the sour grapes. It was only then that I realized that component wise, I really can't do better save for the occasional tweak.

Now that I've gotten the video bug and been researching LEDs and Plasmas, I've not gotten the chance to listen to my system for about a week and a half so I put on some music and was blissfully floored by what I heard. It's all still there, but it took a sabbatical, of sorts, for me to appreciate. During the time off I barely paid attention to review sites like this one and that was all it took to break the spell, for now (that enchantress is always at work).

As pointed out, it's one thing to read about the perfect piece of equipment, another to need it. Reviewers needs to keep up is fine and good and so is the passenger aspect for the rest of us. What we all need to do is separate ourselves from the process and know when to exit the ride. We've already paid our fare, so it's time to move on and enjoy the music.

There will always be another, we can only have one, at a time. We must be faithful to our choices lest we get distracted and loose site of the music.

All the best,
since components are imperfect, perfectionist audio is unattainable.
Perfect is when I get what I have to sound it's best. Mind you I have upwards of 20+ amps, 3 pre-amps, 3 pairs of speakers and I'm in the midst of my first speaker building project. I've never owned or read a stereo mag however I have read the odd review here and there since I've been involved with Audiogon. My first and long term system I listened to for 20+ years and then the internet came around. All the stuff I have is through user feedback via google. I love comparing attributes of different gear. This is after all a hobby. So for me it's not a matter of settling down, it's ongoing. But I'm with the OP in that I don't expect perfection. God forbid! That would put the kaibosh on it pretty quick wouldn't it. I remember the past always bringing consensus with lots of absolutes though.
Ivan, you my friend are sensible. Perfectionism is ridiculous in most things including audio. My theory is that the concept may have had its genesis in the original description of the compact disc, "perfect sound forever."
AFAIK, the 'perfectionism' you refer to really occurred with the advent of TAS's and Stereophile's promotion of the 'subjective' review in which they attached personal opinions to everything, in the guise of being objective, professional, and accurate.

IMHO, what they were really saying by calling it subjective was not so much that they were describing what they heard as a judgment made by using a different sense, that of hearing, not so much measuring. They probably thought that their conclusions were based on other 'objective data', their hearing was that accurate. :-)

Until that time we only had objective reiews rendered by engineers who were humble enought to keep their personal opinions of the sound to themselves and, consequently, their advertisers happy and their reviewers 'informed' but left to listen and form their own opinion about the sound. For example, as I recall Julian and Leonard thought, or at least published, that identically spec'd stuff sounded the same.

How lucky we have become. We now have audio review experts who can tell us everything we need to know. We don't even have to think. Just buy..........By the way I think this was also the birth of audiophile arrogance.

Times have changed. Or have they, really? :-) I think it really has its roots in our own genes. This perfectionism.

FWIW I just decided to brew the 'perfect cup' of coffee. I bought a bean roaster, a high end coffee maker that only heats water, a scale to measure, a couple of different types of bean grinders, and many different types of beans from around the world. What a blast! Talk about a steep learning curve. All for a cup of coffee. Starbucks will never pass my lips again. LOL!
Onhwy61, "I just remember that at one point people just wanted good/better/best sound and I don't think the pursuit of perfection entered into the thinking. My memory could be faulty, but that's how I remember it."

That's how I remember it as well...

From what I see, this level of ridiculousness rose up when we audiophiles took to the internet, and met up in discussion forums such as this. At the same time, the B&M dealer model collapsed, and where we used to get advice on a simpler level, we shifted into chasing the craziest of things. Along the way, we sure spent a lot of money, and put extreme distances between ourselves and everyone else.
There is no such thing as perfect or absolute in audio, of course -- except when one says things like "I am perfectly happy with this sound" or "this is absolutely beautiful sound". Perfect and absolute, the adjectives, are merely concepts used for marketing purposes. If TAS is tired of being absolute then they may change to being perfect. It makes no difference.

You stated, "There will always be another, we can only have one, at a time. We must be faithful to our choices lest we get distracted and loose site of the music." You hit the nail squarely on the head. Unless your personality is such that you are never satisfied and your wallet enables you to indulge your whims, there must come a point where only minor adjustments are left to be made -- unless you are like Csontos who has the time, money and desire to have multiple options in the picture on an ongoing basis.
Bottom line? Follow the Money.

Recordings are imperfect. Audio gear is imperfect. Hearing is imperfect.

That which is imperfect must be sterilized!!!!

Sterilize imperfections! Sterilize......

Rumour is the Enterprise D holodeck had great sound. Still imperfect though. Nomad would have sterilized it if it had not already been destroyed in Star Trek "Generations".
My favorite utterance from NOMAD was:
"I Must Reevaluate" Chilling words to the Captain.
Hang on. Let's put things in perspective here. It's not that I'm dissatisfied. Some people collect spoons. There's only a couple pieces I'm not happy with. I don't listen to the same few CDs over and over either. Nor am I constantly tweaking. Thousands of dollars on adjustments is not minor. Rolling gear is a lot more fun. I only have one set of ICs and speaker cable. But I'm about to try out my new Bedini Analog Vector Spacial Processor I picked up on the Bay. I just got off the phone a little while ago with Gary at Bedini who informed me this thing is one of a few prototypes that got away. Apparently with this, you "can" walk around the room and identify point source imaging in space. You are right inside the stereo image. So now the fun begins all over again.
I believe the pursuit of perfectionist audio is different than perfect audio. One is an end and the other a process. Rephrasing my OP, when did we go from an end, purchasing good/better/best audio equipment, to a never ending process, the pursuit of perfectionist audio?

I would have originally thought it coincided with the rise of subjectivist reviewing, but the link with spreading internet use is undeniably a factor. A site like Audiogon allows a person to benchmark himself vs. other audiophiles. In a consumer oriented society keeping up with Joneses is a powerful motivation. Then there's the constant barrage of "something new has just transformed my system" posts. And finally there are the posts where people tell you outright that it (presumably the hobby) is a journey and that the journey should be enjoyed.


What part of owning a sports car is enjoyable? Doing the research, test drives, negotiating the price, insuring it, waiting for delivery, reading the owner's manual service recommendations or driving it on a winding road on a beautiful day?

My take away from this incredibly insightful analogy is listening to and enjoying music is several orders magnitude more rewarding than messing around with equipment.
Onhwy61, the pleasure and goal for many may well be driving a sports car on a winding road on a pretty day (with the top down, and why not have a pretty blond next to you as well for this fantasy), but consider it is all for not if you don't have the road! :-)
Roads are imperfect. Sterilize them too!

Maybe not the blonde. What does she look like?
The music is always there. Whether it's playing on your system or just in your head. If you like music, this is a given. Subconsciously or otherwise. Attaching a hobby to it doesn't denigrate or lower it's value. In turn, having numerous sports cars doesn't diminish one's enjoyment during an excursion when sports cars happen to be your hobby. But it's only a journey if you're in a car. If it's music, you're already there. It's what brought you here. I don't think a whole lot of us fit into the OP's categories. I think it's still good/better/best. I don't recall seeing the word perfect being used all that often here on Audiogon.