Strange phenomona this hobby.

I can't help but be competetive, that's just me. Not so much with others, but with myself.
Thats why when I heard the MBL system I told myself "self", I have to have that sound in my home.
And I agreed with myself. That was about the jist of the conversation. That kind of realism one does not hear too often or some never hear it.
So where do I stand now?
My system does not scream out "realism realism" like the MBL does. It's quite neutral though, I can play music all day long with out getting fatigued. Merlins are just that type of speaker-great design.
I just recently was forced to change my favorite cartridge, and the sound is different. The sumiko was closer to life-like, but the grado is more engaging.
I am willing to bet the cognoscienti here will agree that live music will not be found in our homes with playback systems that easily.
But I heard it once at the show, actually twice.
So is there a class A++ for those systems that recreate the live event and do I really have to have it. I just went from sumiko to grado and I am enjoying myself more-so.
I am willing to bet that as I gain more experience I will find myself picking up cartridges and cables that don't necessarily cost the most but just work better with the rest of my equipment, no?
Another example is my phono stage the EAR834p. No where near the same price as phono stages in class a , but I would say in the same league with the right tubes and mods.
Now as before I really understand the goners (good way to describe the nuts on this site including myself) owning multiple tt and arms. I was hoping to find one rig that can do it all, but also my intentions from the very beginning were to have three tables at least, for comparisons of arms, cartridges, p. stages and tables. I can't wait to get there, all I need is time because I will catch up to you nuts!!!
I would like to hear your stories or interpretations of vinyl play back. There is some mysticism to this, that may not be understood but is felt like no other thing.
I have had fun hobbies before but this takes the cake!
Mepearson, your experience listening to that Mariachi band is exactly what a lot of audiophiles miss, and unfortunately don't have as a reference, when judging the MUSIC-expression qualities of audio gear. It really is thrilling to hear those sounds live. A couple of thoughts:

The thrill of hearing that trumpet sound is not just a question of the loudness of it. So, the ability of a component to reproduce that thrill is determined but much more than number of watts, and speaker efficiency. This is a perfect example of numbers telling only part of the story. The thrill you hear is not just because of the instrument's loudness; not because it might read 98 dbs (?) on an SPL meter. It's because of everything that happens between of 0 db and 98 dbs. It's the stuff in between that causes the excitement. The tension, the speed of the air, the extremely subtle little dynamic changes that occur between the point at which the player first starts to form the embouchure, and that very first little bit of air rushes into the instrument; all the way to when he really opens up his diaphragm, and the instrument literally becomes an extension of his breathing apparatus. The human element. This is not "descriptive pornography" as some have called it. This is what really takes place. And if we think that number of watts, distortion figures, etc., can fully explain what is going on, I think we are kidding ourselves. But, to key into this stuff is the best way to appreciate musical expression, and the ability of equipment to let it happen, or not. Experiences such as yours are the only way to have a better understanding.

I lived with the Counterpoint SA5.1 for a few years, and given what you have written about how you listen to music, I completely understand why you like it so much. I did too. I remember taking it to a local dealer to compare to the just released AI Modulus 3, which was all the rage at the time, and being perplexed. The Counterpoint had much better musical flow, and dynamics, of the kind that we are talking about; as well as better tone colors. The Modulus sounded bleached out tonally, and a little dead sounding in comparison. The only area in which the Modulus beat it was in stability of images. That was the only area where the Counterpoint was, for me, less than stellar. But then again, this has little to do with music anyway, and I have been tempted over the last few years to try one again. BTW, mine was modified by George Kaye of Moscode fame, when he was still in the NYC area right after the demise of NYAL. I never tried the SA2 with it. As far as the EAR goes, what I can tell you is that IMO it is easily as good or better in the areas discussed as the SA5 phono section was. But, in a general sense, very similar sounding units: great tonal colors, very dimensional, and with a both easy and exciting dynamic flow. I am listening to Wayne Sorter's "Atlantis" as I write, with a Azden YM-P50VL moving magnet cart. So no step-up transformers in use, and yes it does sound better without the transformers. But still retains those musical qualities with the transformers, when I want the higher resolution of a good MC, for more audiophile jollies.

BTW, that record is fantastic, and easily available. One of the best examples of interesting composition in a contemporary jazz-fusion bag, from one of the geniuses of jazz.
Frogman-I agree with what you said with regards to the thrill of hearing the trumpet was not only related to how loud it was. It was everything else involved as you said. The sound was just so pure and dynamic.

With regards to the Counterpoint SA-5.1, mine has been back to Mike Elliot and has had the line stage and phono stage upgraded with better caps and resistors then were available at the time it was first built. The SA-2 has also been back for a new power transformer as the original gave up the ghost. IMO, the SA-5.1 is the biggest steal in the high end used market today (if you can find one). Forget about the SA-5000. They cost more money and are not in the same league as the SA-5.1. My brother had an SA-5000 and wanted to dump it for an SA-5.1. We found some guy in Canada who was willing to trade his 5.1 for the 5000. My bro had been searching in vain for a 5.1 for awhile but none were available. The SA-5000 trade smoked one out at a bit of a cost to my bro. He could have sold the 5000 straight out for more money than 5.1s sell for when they are available.

I will check out Wayne Sorter's Atlantis.
Frogman-I just snagged a NM copy of Wayne Shorter's Atlantis on Ebay.
Hope you like it. For a great example of Shorter's earlier work, featuring trumpet, try "The All Seeing Eye" with the great Freddie Hubbard on trumpet.
Frogman-Atlantis showed up yesterday and it was NM as advertised. This is a phenomenal sounding recording. I was completely blown away by how outstanding the record sounds and how much I liked the music on the first playing. To think I bought this record for under $6.00 is mind-blowing. I have heard some 15 ips 2 track tapes that can't touch this quality of sound. Thanks for turning me on to this LP.