Rig building - When or Why, do you change devices?

I see some people change out gear like they change shirts & socks. Other’s less so. Though in all, many audiophiles repeatedly make component changes seemingly with regularity.

I thought I’d ask “Why, How, or When” do you determine a change in your system is necessary?

Is it all just about the money required for the moveing on or up?

Is it purely preferential?

Or is it just a “want for something different”?

Lastly, have you simply missed the off ramp for your own ‘gotta have it, gotta get it’, treadmill?

I thought this might convey some perspectives on the when’s and why’s of system building… for the newbie and the oldbees.
the obsessive compulsive nature of the beast IMO. When you fix the 'problem' with new gear you then encounter new flaws that must be fixed. Maybe we are all just negative and need a more positive outlook...
I have not got the budget needed to purchase anything like the very best components. I have to look for the best value gear and this can be found at several different price points, each offering a step up in sound quality. So I study a lot to find out what is good value.

I learn from other audiophiles, from listening to their systems, finding out about their own upgrades, from talking to technicians, from online exchanges and reading, from dealers and from reviews. This, plus listening to music on my own gear, helps me to form an impression of my system's weaknesses and make a short list of worthwhile upgrades. Sometimes the list is a single item long.

I keep an eye on the gear for sale sites and when I see one of the pieces I've noted I go for it.
Since my system has been built primarily through the purchase of used gear which I usually compare with another similar component in my system, I tend to change components when I see an opportunity to acquire a piece that I have wanted to compare to something I already own. This method has provided a great education in learning to discern differences among gear, and it has proven itself as a valuable learning tool regarding matching speakers/amps and preamps/amps.

This is how I buy preamps, amps, digital sources, and wire.

Speakers are another matter. I tend to hold on to speakers longer because they're a hassle to buy and sell. IMO.
Word for word what Tvad said. For the three years though there have been no replacements to the basic setup. Wow that seems like a long time after all the changing I did to get here.
Could there be improvements? Most definitely. Not sure I'm interested in paying for them.
Thanks. You're onto something there...

If by 'problem' you mean "adjustment", you're so right!

I believe a system is just that, a 'system', a whole and singular thing, comprised of many parts. Exchanging out one of those parts even though quite similar in fact, it will change more than just the esthetic!

Perhaps that power cord which ran so well with the previous yadayada, doesn't play so well with the new entrant... or the ICs, or different isolation needs should be addressed.

Making changes in a system if the changed in item is to be optimized for the system, requires more than just plug and play.

A positive attitude too is a great thing to have on hand. Finding happiness in what you have is key. If happiness revolves around that next 'whatsit', you'r in trouble. Of that, I'm positive.

Thanks. There's a good bit of wisdom in your thoughts. Keep on keeping on...

What's driving the speakers is more important than the speakers themselves. Always. IMHO.
What I'm finding in my limited experience is that there aren't any free lunches in audio gear. A $5000 CDP is better than a $2500 CDP etc.. I choose a retail level than search for the best used deals I can find . I decided $ 5500 was a decent level for a CDP and figured to spend $2500-3500 used to enter that level. As you all know than the pre needs to be upgraded than the amp/amps than the cables and P/C's then my chair etc... The amount I'll spend on a piece of gear just keeps getting larger and larger and somehow the larger amounts always become reasonable!!!! Hopefully I'm approaching my point of diminishing returns!!
My primary systems are pretty stable now but when I started building them (ie in their current form) I did so by buying used gear primarily, and went through a lot of what I call "in home demos". That is, I would buy a new (to me, but usually used) component to improve on what I had. I would play it in my systems and decide if to keep it or the previous one, and sell the loser.

Also, there were many years that I "sat out" because of the demands of raising kids and pursuing a career. Once I started "playing" with my system again I think had an insatiable appetite for trying various brand/components. When I was in college and had more more time than money, I spent my time in Audio stores wearing out my welcome. Now I lack the time for that, and doing in home trials of gear really isn't that expensive.

I am still trying and trading gear, but not nearly as much as 2 years ago. The components in my systems have been here for at least 2 years. I've moved on to trying and trading guitars and guitar amps now . . .
Obsession with upgrades was a serious disease I had until fairly recently. The biggest upgrade was changing my listening room so my speakers could show their best. Before, I was chasing my tail on the upgrade merry-go-round. Some choice improvements in the analog front end has landed me in a very comfortable spot, one I don't feel the need to change anytime soon.
Having components modded has made the difference also for me, instead of spending more on components I couldn't really afford, I spent relatively small amounts on upgrades to the components themselves. Satisfaction has arrived, the compulsion to upgrade has been all but vanquished, and it feels great.
I realize this approach is not for everyone, since many feel that having a stock marque product with a name and model number that says "high end" is a priority, and that's fine for those that can afford to do so. Along with many other members, that's not the case for me, so I had to get to the point where I could attain audio peace another way. The main thing is that you get there.

Peace and audio joy to all,
I guess the simple answer is when something doesn't sound right and it can't be addressed just by tweaking speaker placement to room acoustics.

Sometimes its just because you get tired of what you have and want to try something different, but not necessarily better.


Good point! Thanks.

I tend to agree with your perspective on gear pricing. I used to think with SS amps, it was about weight. The heavier the better... and still find that aspect more valid than not... but will agree $5K to $7K amps are the threshold for diminishing returns. Likely too CDPs have their own as do other components and cabling.

I feel however, the point itself is subjective to some extent and dependant upon the synergy and resolution of the System being toyed with. it tickels me to see someone whose idea is that due to the expense of a thing, they feel it a "high resolution" item. It's not. It's just expensive… but good , nevertheless.

Thanks Dan.

True enough. If the grass looks greener on the other side… It’s time to water your own lawn. A real obsessive and/or compulsive person will have lots of trouble with that note. Routinely.

I’m beginning to see the upgradeing what’s on hand, as a more viable path. One which is gaining pace with me as something I’ll try out soon with a piece I have now. It’ll be a while though.

Of course, then, other things may again need attending too to integrate it best. Geeezzz. That part always eludes me until I’m face to face with it.

Shouldn’t it be a given then, that what lays in front of the speakers is more important than the speakers themselves?
My buying and selling is pretty much exactly as posted by Tvad above. I have found that sometimes an upgrade of one component requires changing another to maintain synergy, sort of an endless loop.
One thing I have learned over the years it is that component matching is very important and unpredictable. I have had many systems but finally decided to let the pros do it for me and now have mostly Audio Note gear which is a delightful complete system. Upgrades are still unpredictable, but always an upgrade, which was not always the case in the past....
I always like what I have and I'm always looking for something I will like better. Finances, family considerations and experience have all conspired to mitigate my restless tendencies over time. And I've learned that I really don't care all that much about the results...I just like screwing around with it as a pastime. I don't think I've had anything that sounds bad since I moved beyond my Bose 901s in 1978.
I found that once you upgrade one component to be sonically better, the rest of the component in the chain then needs to be upgraded as well to a similar level.

I upgraded my cdp and that resulted in wholesale change of all my other components. I guess the phrase your sytem is only as good as the weakest link plays a part in my willingness to swap out gear
I expect that there is a considerable psychological bias to liking the "new" thing more than the old. Just by entertaining the idea of trying the new thing probably leaves us with a predisposition towards the new one. How do we know that we want to try the new thing? Someone, somewhere, said something or wrote something about it, or about its predecessor, or about something similar. Or it looks cool. Otherwise, there is no way that the thought would enter our heads.

I think Macrojack is right. A lot of us are twiddling and tweaking and changing because it is interesting to do so. I have read many posts out there where the writer has seen evolutionary changes through a half dozen components (the same role; e.g. CDP) and while I have listened to many more than that, and there are incremental differences between a lot of CDPs, there is more to do with system synergy and that day's predisposition than there really is with the components I bet. Since I bought my first high-end system, very few times have I found something with which I could not live happily.

Personally, I wait for great things from the past to come around at a stupidly cheap price, then pounce. Because if it turns out to be all hype, someone else is probably out there doing the same thing and I won't lose much on the turn...


Hear! Hear! Very good.

I think with a gear change... a new piece... or a modification of some aspect, I am certianly altering the presentation, perhaps the sonics too.

I'm not sold entirely on the fact that every change I've made has been to increase performance. Render a clearer window to the recorded venue, or even immulate a live performance after all.

I think, more often than not, my greatest foe in acquiring that next level is myself. At times, with a lot of changes which I did this past year, I sought for a time to regain that which I had let go of... I initially tried to make the now all tube power duplicate the sound of the Tube & Ss set up. yet found out soon enough that wasn't going to happen completely. Then I got to listen still more critically and found out some areas were improved upon, while others lacked. A Shelby Cobra just isn't a Hemi 'Cuda. Both are breath taking rides, yet get there in different ways. A funny thing happened then, I slowly began to not miss so much, those areas where the SS amp excelled past the tube amps…. And so forth.

Getting 'different' is lots easier than attaining 'better'. Different isn't a bad thing either. actually, I feel that the relationship between 'diff' & 'better' are often interchangeable and can point towards the same things, generally speaking. It’s all relative. Right after I got married I realized all my problems were relative. I moved away from my relatives as soon as I could. With audio, it’s not the same.

The relative diffs are where the incrases, if any, are found. Allong the upgrade highway, the ‘relative differences’ begin to shrink, and become scattered about. Where and What those distinctions get found out determines better. It gets tougher and tougher to feret them out, and when you do, finally decide, it’s one of a couple thoughts… “Is this indeed better? Do I need to keep looking, or Can I live with this?””

I know I can’t live with my relatives, but could easily live with the stuff I’ve brought in here since all this began a few years back… and some items that are gone now as I’ve moved on, I’d sure not mind having back.
My system was virtually unchanged for five years. I wasn't even looking for speakers, they found me. It was the old "too good to pass up" thing, I got a great deal on speakers that I otherwise could not afford. Unfortunately this set off a chain of events that was beyond my control. The speakers were deserving of a better amp, so I replaced the amp. Of coarse I just had to have the matching pre-amp. This combo had great synergy and it was apparent that my CD player wa the weak link so I bought a DAC. To make things worse my sub died shortly after so I had to replace that as well. Hopefully I'm good for another five years.
Like TVAD, I buy 2nd hand after looking at the forums, reviews etc. I decide on a component I would be interested in and wait for it to turn up. Having got the kit right, I look at tweeks, cables and recently supports. I have a range of the latter from Symposium, Stillpoints, Herbies audio lab. All make a real difference, I just move them around for best results.
One reason for change not mentioned, is our brain being attuned to change. I am sure we all have been floored by a new addition, then a week later, the system sounds the same. It is'nt the same, we have just got used to it. That implies change, any change, can be seen as better. That is a real danger I think, in brief auditions at a shop