The Next Level

What I am about to write is going to sound familiar to a lot of you in AudiogonLand. Let me first set the stage.

My wife and I both had another stressful, crazy work week under our belt and we settled in for a quiet, ‘ lock the doors and chill out with a great steak, a bottle of Bordeaux, and just kick back and enjoy the music ‘ night. Everything seemed excellent. Filet mignon wrapped in bacon, steamed asparagus lightly pan fried with bacon and garlic, then lightly covered with a dash of fresh Parmesan grated cheese accompanied with a nice bottle of a very smooth bottle of French Bordeux that didn’t cost us an arm and a leg. Great conversion and we were both laughing and enjoying each other. Wonderful night.

We were listening to my newly reconfigured tube system in the basement listening room. As favorite pieces played, we occasionally closed our eyes and caught each other smiling and swaying with the rhythm of the music. It was the first time that we had both sat down to listen to the new combination of tubes and cables that we had recently purchased.

Then we put on Beth Orton’s Pass in Time and entered the next level…

Moving 3 dimensional sounds shot at us from all angles. This was much more than sound stage… we were IN THE MUSIC. I have never experienced anything like this with music in my life. Beth’s lyrics were very beautiful and her band was extremely hypnotic. I wanted to grab and hug the beautiful sounds that were totally filling our room. The pluck of guitar strings was right in front of me, the hidden texture of so many of the electronic effects revealed itself to me in the most crisp, clear, gentle, touchable, growing, moving …. words fail me now. We were on an indescribably pleasant trip for about 45 minutes.

I thought I had a great system before last night. I enjoyed it every day and never got tired of it. I always seem to be analyzing where I could make the next improvement. I have finally evolved to a new level where all I could do was let the music come and take me away and I was no longer in control, and I loved every minute of it.

Does anyone else have that memory of realizing that your system was everything and more than you had ever hoped for? For me, it was very punch in the nose obvious. I’d like to hear of anyone else that can remember reaching their next level.
It's amazing what a good bottle of Bordeaux will do.
I can recall two times when I reached the plateau you have described. The first was when I was driving towards my career apex but had a very mundane system (I don't even remember what) because who has time for that 'audiophile stuff'. I was just beginning to explore classical music. I came home from a particularily stressful day, put on earphones and listened for the first time to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto by Heifitz I think. It really pulled me out of my real space and was right up there in life shaping events with my first photograpy journey on pot. Revealatory! Both! Laughing as I type, I'm listening to that Concerto on my little desk system. A walk down memory lane. :-)

About a 18 months ago I brought some new speakers home, and for the first time in many years I found it possible to listen and appreciate the speakers BUT at the same time to fully listen to the music without being distracted by audio(phile) considerations. I'm really in a good place now. Its good to be home again.
Sounds like a great night. It also sounds like a Penthouse letter...with a different kind of final paragraph. Glad you had a great experience, but it makes me wonder a bit about this whole audiophile thing.

Yep, those who escaped the merry-go-round know exactly how you feel, every day, day in day out, hour after hour. For those who haven't got there yet - keep trying- as this place does exist.
Romanee' Conti La Tache will take you to the next level.
Very nice story, I'm happy for both of you. You enjoyed the music, and not the system. A lot of systems sound good, but for one reason or another,they are not always musical...and that is a big distraction from the music that is playing.

I expect anyone who manages to put a musical system together like you have, will experience the same feelings you have arrived at, and thats nice....because it was really about the music in the first place, and sometimes it takes a while to get back to that part.

It has always been about the music being enjoyed.....

Nice thread for a change
I am in the process as we speak of FINALLY getting "lost in the music". I added a 2nd amp and new power conditioner last week and then picked my jaw up off the floor. The musicality is now so amazing that I find myself playing big band music just because it now sounds so lifelike and great in my room. Particularly, "For Duke" and "Fatha" on 24K gold series CD, among others.

I really excited because my system is now at the level that I had hoped to someday get to, where everything just sounds so "right" as all the pieces have finally meshed together perfectly. I now find myself getting totally immersed in the music, instead of half-listening for weaknesses to improve upon. Needless to say, I will be re-visiting all my CDs over the coming months to hear what I've been "missing". The best analogy for me is the tumblers on a big walk-in vault all clicking into place and the door finally opening.

Thanks mattzack2 for this thread - the timing couldn't be better for me and I'm happy to share, since it was the advice and counsel of many of you over the years that helped me get to this point. Thank you.
But a shocking commentary on Audiofeil's profit margins.
Excuse me; I need to go take a cold shower.
It's funny, but I was so wrapped up in my analytical buying frenzy, that I was reading and buying and swapping things around every day. I was having a blast.

It didn't dawn on me that all the tweaking that I was doing was all heading in the direction of better listening.

The music that I now hear is so different in that it seems to be inviting me into it. I get seduced into listening to a guitar, or an electronic, or a vocal... just riding that portion of the music, when all of a sudden another interesting, beautiful instrument or something grabs my attention and invites me to drift with it.

So, now that my CD's sound exquisite, I have the challenge of trying to get my music from my hard drives to be as good. I already have some new caps coming and a super USB cable as well.

I love this hobby... yeah, I know, I still call it a hobby because I don't really have the right word to describe it.

Thanks to Audiogon and all of you that share this love we have in common.

Happy listening !
Coincidently I too have reached the point of no return.

And it was in the simplicity of it all that struck me most; and this from digital source. From transport to dac to passive volume to power amp to speakers. But it does not sound like I am listening to a machine.

The sound of REAL comes through like I am listening to the real event.
Eric -

The simplicity was something I noticed also... transport, dac. integrated amp, speakers.

My next appendage is my Mac Mini. That will only have to be optimized to my dac. I have 2 options to explore there, either usb or toslink. It should be easy, but only time will tell.

Do yourself a big favor and listen to Beth Ortin if you get a chance. It was her Pass In Time CD that made me realize I had reached the next level.
Whats with all the bacon? If you and your lovely wife wish to listen for a long time to come.Will you both gut back on the bacon in your recipe's ok.
Mattzack2 - I thought you were done? I'm so dissapointed ;-) I love Beth Orton (with an "o" by the way).

For your MacMini>DAC you may want to look into an re-clocking interface such as an Empirical PaceCar if you do choose to use Toslink. I would definitely choose to take the SPDIF conversion outside of your MacMini (don't use Mac Toslink>DAC). Plenty of decent USB DAC's out there though - the asynchronous technology employed by Wavelength, among others, is compelling. Plenty of threads here on that subject too, so I won't hijack this one any further. I have to go take down your effigy off my Audiophile-Hero pedestal now.

I have a NOS Valab with toslink, coax and usb inputs. I just ordered a Ridge Street Audio Design Poiema USB From Robert Schutz, so I am walking dowm the music server highway right now also.

I am going to try to make my files sound as good as my CDs do, but I am just beginning down that path. Keep in touch on other threads. I could always use some great advice.

Your pedestal, huh ?
Thanks for the advice Schipo. I agree with you on the bacon. we just finished the last of it this morning .. bacon and eggs with potato pancakes.
Good wires! I use a pair of RCA's going from my MW Transporter to my pre. I have no experience using his USB or any premium USB so could not comment directly on that one. I'm not familiar with your DAC either, but given your enjoyment of it sounds like there is not much to complain about.

It is possible to make your PC audio sound better than a transport IMO and IME. So stay on that music server highway...maybe hitch a ride, or be careful of those crazy Audiophile drivers if you keep walkin'.

Now lets not get any further into my pedastal. Believe me, you don't want to go there, my friend.


Since Bill had a wine suggestion (Burgundy vs. Bordeaux, not bad advice with your beef - and, BTW, it needn't be La Tache), and Schipo handled the protein (No bacon...No bacon? What's life without Bacon?!), I'll handle the veggies. Asparagus is tough on wine. Next time, you might want to consider green beans, instead.


PS If you must eat asparagus with wine, try it cold as a salad course with lemon vinaigrette and chopped tomato. You can pair it with some Austrian Gruner Veltliner - not perfect, but one of the few wines asparagus won't reduce to mush.

PPS The Beatles' Savoy Truffle might be a good soundtrack for your next listening session with the little woman.

PPPS The Cambridge Audio DacMagic is a very fine, low cost USB DAC.

I continue to enjoy this thread. Simple pleasures. Simplicity, it appears, may indeed be the key to happiness in the dining room, the listening room, and...errr, maybe on Marco's pedestal as well.
Nice story.

That's the chick from Portishead, right? Gotta check that one out.
That's the chick from Portishead, right? Gotta check that one out.

Nope, you are thinking of Beth Gibbons. This is Beth Orton, who appears in the concert/documentary film of Leonard Cohen (I'm Your Man), as well as on the soundtrack, covering Cohen's, "Sisters of Mercy".

I haven't heard her new CD, but I particularly like the earlier ones, "Central Reservation" and "Trailer Park".

PS I like a good Zin with my steak. I'd point to Dasche Cellars (look for the monkey on the whale)...that or any Zin by Ridge. pass on the local!
No bacon tonight, but my wife did buy more at the grocery store this afternoon... so it's not over with the nitrates for a little while longer.

So I went shopping too. I found some nice Grosch beer with those fancy swing top caps. I bought a six pack of Peroni, a twelve pack of Miller Lites, and for dinner a nice bottle of Chateau Roquefort, another Bordeaux. Next time I'll try one of the suggestions you guys gave me.

More beef tonight, but kabobs this time. And she is making brussel sprouts fried in olive oil with garlic and more of the nice parmesan cheese on them.

A friend came over to hear my new setup and even though he said he had to leave in a hurry, he ended up listening to the Beth Orton CD and one of his favorite CDs which was loaded with a lot of love music. My wife said it was too much love for her.

So, I had to get back down in the basement and listen to more tunes and read all these crazy replies. This is great stuff. Lots of fun being here. I haven't written this much in years, but it really feels comfortable here.... maybe it's all the wine and beer. Will nitrates do that ?

I have to recommend Beth Orton again to anyone who wants to experience something really amazing on their system.

Happy listening !