State of the Art? I don t care anymore.

I appreciate the endless obsessive quest to reach the next level of audio nirvana. But I am starting to wonder if it is really making me happy. It seems that the relationship between cost and pleasure is by no means linear. Some systems I have assembled seem to have had just enough performance and resolution to reveal how terrible a recording sounded, or how badly I needed to upgrade an associated component -- but didn't sound good enough to get me to the next level of reality. While I guess that is all part of the "fun", I just want to enjoy music again. I still love audio and I love reading all of your posts, but has anyone else sometimes felt this way? Could someone suggest a romantically, musically colored component or system where, despite their audiophile credentials and enthusiasm, they have forgotten about the equipment and just listened to music? I don't care about earth shattering volume, the deepest bass, the finest resolution, extended highs, accuracy, rock solid imaging etc. Just want to enjoy music again. I know this is not necessarily a new idea, but I find it very very difficult to achieve.
I know how you feel, and I think all of us who have been in this hobby a long time have felt that way at some point. I'm no longer into constant major upgrades (my amps, preamp, turntable, transport and DAC have been pretty much the same the past 6-8 years), and have pretty much geared my system to convey musical, rather than hi-fi, values. When I started out it wasn't that way, of course, but I reached the point about 10 years ago where I decided to get off the merry-go-round and find the components that best got me involved in the music and figure a way to afford them, then hold onto them and tweak their performance from time to time. If I were starting over again now and going with that objective, after having heard this system at a non-audiophile friend's home, I would find the small Red Rose system almost ideal for what I was trying to accomplish. It's a system (tubed, of course) that works well together and lets you enjoy the music, but gives enough of a high-end sound to satisfy. It has weaknesses and certainly can be bettered, but for my tastes (principally classical) it has most everything I'm looking for except the deep bass, and for that maybe I could find a subwoofer or listen in a smaller room at quieter volumes. But perhaps the main thing about it that makes it so appealing is how it is marketed as a package by Red Rose--sort of a high-end rack system. No need to try out one component vs. another, no mixing and matching, just an all-in-one system that works and is very musical. I'm sure there are other, less expensive, combinations out there that will do the same thing, but this one just struck me because my friend, with one purchase, had bought a system which conveyed the basic values of the system I'd spent many years, and much more money, to build.
CW: I picked up an Audion Silver Night stereo 300B amp and am running a pair of Reynaud Twins. The CD source is just a CAL player with a Bel Canto DAC. It is a very simple yet musical system and will be all the way there after a few cable changes. When the money starts rolling in again I may build another one with the Audiomat 30 watt tube integrated amp and Renaud Trente's and move the current system into our spare room. I was rolling signal and output tubes in the Audion a few weeks ago and most everything sounded good just different, so there is always something to play with if I feel so inclined.
Hmmm, CW, first you say you're tired of the quest for SOTA reproduction, then you ask if there's a component that will allow you to enjoy the music. Do you see a bit of a conflict here? My suggestion is to think of yourself as having two, separate hobbies. One is the pursuit of more accurate reproduction of "the sound of real music in real space." The other is the enjoyment of music. And you don't need the first to do the second. Beethoven is still Beethoven even on a boombox. What makes his symphonies dramatic can be heard even through a thick haze of distortion. So put one of your hobbies aside for awhile. Learn a little about music, and what makes Beethoven--or whatever it is that floats your boat--move you so. (Hint: it's not his sweet tube sound!)
Go hear more live music. That will always get you more involved in the music and not the system.You'll think your system sounds better.
cw: ah, i perceive a zen question. do you really need more and bigger rocks or fewer, more pleasing rocks placed in a perfectly groomed gravel garden? it is for you, not your master, to choose your personal path to enlightenment. put another way: did the software produce the hardware or the hardware the software? corollary: does the chicken even know, much less care, whether there's a road to be crossed? -kelly
A lot of times i get into the music more when i am not sitting in the good spot. Sometimes when i'm doing something else the music just jams. I don't think it's a particular system that puts the pieces together, it's a super cool album at the right time.
You guys are jaded as hell.You talk this way today; tomorrow you'll be out on the street,trying to score cabling or some other "stuff". It's like trying to leave the "mob". (to many Sapranos' episodes)It's ok, and good to vent;that's what we're here for.
I have really enjoyed my Audiomat Arpege. Good price, great sound. Along with the Bel Canto Dac I don't feel as though I am missing out on much compared with the big guys. and of course my humble Meadowlark Kestrels which have been with me a few years and have never made my eyes wander at another when I'm out and about.
CWE, congrats, again an excellent thread! I think it was about 15 years ago. I was on a long trip by car, driving down the autostrada del sole in Italy, when fiddling with my car radio, I just hit upon the beginning of the second movement of Schubert's Quintet in C minor and soon, with the beautiful countryside flahing by, I was deeply drawn into the music. Afterwards I realised that my enjoyment had been completely unhampered by any system related thoughts, that at that very moment I had regained an innocence of enjoyment, I had long lost. In a way, that was a turning point in my career as an audiophile and my further development seems to mymic closely that which RCprince has described so well: I wanted to get back to the enjoyment of music and once having attained that, the budget for my hobby was hardly strained anymore. The changes which I have made to my system in the last 5 to 10 years or so became only minor. Recently, because of an amp-mishap, I rescued an old Threshold Stasis from the mid seventies from its resting place in the cellar and was amazed how good it really sounded on my Maggie bass panels, lively and punchy and when I put it on the Quads, well it was not exactly Jadis, but it was enjoyable enough not to be too distracted. Need I say more?
I think I am there with some of you... The turning point was when I have noticed that my other hobbies were starting to take my spare cash... Now I have a really nice wood working shop for the price of way less than my speakers cost (I wear extreme ear protection)...

I still listen often(5x or more), but I personally reached the point to where I decided I was just going to listen, enjoy and upkeep, rather than strive for this or that that costs thousands a pop and never really completely does it for me. My forte in this hobby is the love of music, I grew out of the needing several complete equipment swaps over 10 years -- it became a hassle to me. When the recordings get to the point where my system cannot resolve them, maybe I will be the mad swapper again... I enjoy my stereo more after leaving it alone than when I was always changing equipment.

Maybe some of you should try your hand at a Lie Nielson No. 7 on figured Maple with some favorite tunes on an old 50s vintage Sherwood Mono Tube Radio setup (Garage Sound System) and you will naturally enjoy life more...
Cornfedboy. That's deep sh*t, or at least good comedy. You're the most zen-like lawyer I've ever met.
A really nice little setup (I don't have all of it anymore) is a set of spica tc-60's with a conrad-johnson mv-50, sonograph SD-1 cdplayer, and an adcom 750 preamp. I had it hooked up to one of my televisions, but lots of times I just liked to listen to it when I didn't want so much detail and power to contend with. Sometimes you don't really want the band to be in your house. The old cj equipment is wonderful for relaxing systems, and priced very low for it's enjoyment factor. Not that detailed, but definitely magical.
IT GOT SO BAD ,the first system i put togeather 12yr,s ago that i just sold everything.I was not focused on the music anymore.
Now when i put this last system togeather 8 mon, ago it,s not has bad,i geuss because it was so long between system,s and having ti listen to low fi stuff that this time i enjoy the music more i think. Now i put on some music and do alot of other things, rather than just sit in the sweet spot. Like on the computer, here on audiogon the music is in the next room loud enough to enjoy the real music rather than be anal about it,but still times i think why.
I do love this never ending hobby and reading these threads makes the hobby complete. of course my system well never be complete, but i enjoy tweaking more than buying.
This question was posed earlier, are we just crazy?
Non audiophiles think so
Good thread Cw. Been there, in fact still going-- but haven't reached your level of desparation yet. I smoked cigarettes for 19 years and then quit "cold turkey", and I've now been off cigs for 20+ years. Well, HiFi is more addictive. The problem is we all go beyond the "knee" of the famous diminishing returns curve, ie we spend a lot more money for rapidly decreasing music quality/character. But music, not hifi, is good for us, so my suggestion is to set yourself a fixed "brick wall" (can't even get away from "hifi" talk in philosophical maundering) budget, say $5K, and put together a musical system based on that amount-- give yourself a plus or minus 10%, and that's it-- no more hifi gear. Spend the rest of your money on music. I'd base such a system on a decent integrated, maybe tubed, and go from there. But don't spend one cent more than your budget on your "system". Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Cheers. Craig.
Now for a musical inexpensive system John 1 I tink you've got it!! Oh the midrange magic of the Spica's. Nobody did it better for the dough.
I think you must first start with the objective of building a system to serve the type of music you most like to listen to. Every type of configuration has it's strong points and weaknesses. I would then visit every audio store you can and relate your objectives to a competant salesman. You might also join a local audio club and try to network. I personally love tube equipment and nearfield listening but that might not float your boat. I am purposely avoiding the name game because personal discovery part of the fun.
This is an interesting subject. I guess for me this has always been about the music. I have improved my system as I saw the need to better experience the music and as budget allows. The system I have now is my first 'high end' system by most definitions. It happened because I was looking for better music representation, and this just produced that. I am now done, I guess until I find a major flaw in the music experience through this system.