the process is more challenging than the result

it is my hypothesis that the process of "perfecting" or attempting to attain a specific "sond" from one's stereo system is more challenging and enjoyable than listening to the stereo system after a particular "result" has been acieved.

while it is enjoyable to listen to music on a stereo system, the steps taken to satisfy your sonic goals are more interesting, self-actualizing and "fun", than passively listening to music.

as has been said, one can get most of the benefits of listening to music on a table radio, that one gets from listening to music played through a well set-up stereo system.

there is no substitute for experimenting, tinkering,trial and error ,experiencing new "sounds", and hopefully,achieving the type of sound one truly desires.

such a quest, could be the reason so many used components are available for sale.

many are in this hobby because they are chasing their dream of sonic utopia, rather than strictly to listen to music.

What you are speaking of is processed in different parts of the brain, intellectual and emotional parts. I don't see any equation or analogy.

And although it's possible to enjoy music from a table radio, it's not possible to get the *full* experience and *all* that's in the music. So much is missing. If you listen as a musician does, those inner details are where a large part of the interest in the music lies, and a large part of the emotional expression.

I suppose it may come down to how each of us listens and what kind of rewards (intellectual or emotional) we're after. The technical side to audio is fun, interesting, challenging, but when that's settled, I will gladly set it aside to just listen.
Alas, poor Mrtennis!
I am 180 degrees diametrically opposed to every paragraph in your post.

Except for "such a quest, could be the reason so many used components are available for sale."
If you consider that a paragraph.

Materialistic hobby=semi-pleasant waste of time
Music=profound sensory investigation
Profound sensory investigation with high end equipment=ecstatic wonderment and sublime communion with our inherent creativity
and your point is???

on the planet i come from. the last thing i need is to spend all my free time getting 'challenged' by electronic devices. my biggest challange stereowise, is playing air guitar though the entire dr feelgood-stupidity album without hurting my elbow.
as has been said, one can get most of the benefits of listening to music on a table radio, that one gets from listening to music played through a well set-up stereo system.

Benefits….hum. Weather you mean a true benefit (as in lowered blood pleasure, relief from stress, contentment, etc.), or emotional sensation (gratification, enjoyment, exhilaration, etc.), this is a flawed premise either way. I listen to talk radio in the car, where I spend a great deal of time, because I “benefit” from that format so much more than from listening to music via the radio. I am a music lover, which lead me to become an audiophile. When the music is involving it memorizes me, when it is played through even a decent car stereo, it often becomes an Annoyance. The whole point of perfecting the soundstage, timbre, image, clarity, dynamics and the nuances is to “benefit” the listener. The gear is the obsessive component of this neurosis; the end result, or the music, is the passion (or, as you have identified it, the “benefit”). Albeit, the result can be challenging.
Listening to music is much preferred for me when weighed against the quest for great sound in my system. I find the 'quest' to be quite frustrating at times and would rather the gear all go away and that I was left with just pure musical pleasure. If something is off or wrong in a change that I've made that really bugs me and then it does indeed become difficult to listen and enjoy. Fortunately that seems to happen with less frequency the longer I am in this hobby, but it certainly still happens. I do get pleasure from making the 'right' choices, but the greater pleasure by far is in reaping the benefits of those choices...enjoying the music. I don't attach the same expectations to listening to music outside of my main rig (on a table radio, in the car, iPod, etc.), but I much prefer the pleasures my main rig provides. That said, in the pursuit of a better sound I have met some really amazing people and formed some long-standing friendships, and I'd rank that as one of life's greatest rewards.
I agree with the last paragraph that many are chasing sonic utopia rather than listening to music. However, I do not agree with the comment in the first paragraph that the process is more challenging and enjoyable than the result. This is a generalization that assumes all people are motivated by the same thing.

I am reminded of the existentialist philosopher Kierkegaard, who categorized people into two groups. One group consists of people who are never satisifed in life. They are always on a journey. They have no use for material objects as an indicator of success because it implies that they have found what they are looking for, which they never do. Life is a lifelong journey, a never ending search.

The second group is people who view the accumulation of assets as a measure of success. These people can be fulfilled in life as they have a benchmark for success and happiness. Or something like that anyways. It's been a long time since I read anything like this. In view of your hypothesis, you might find Kierkegaard interesting reading in refining your ideas.

As for myself, I haven't figured it all out.

When it comes to my stereo, I'm a music person. I have no interest in the constant equipment swapping and component matching. That's one reason why I'm more of a single brand person. I'll let somebody else figure out what goes well together. I'll then go with it. If it sounds good, it is. And I'm happy.

On the other hand, there are other things in life where the journey is more important than the destination. For example, I like to putter around the house and do home renovation projects. I enjoy the construction. It's almost disappointing to complete something because the fun is now over. Other people ask me why I don't hire somebody. Why?, I say. This is my fun. I would no more hire somebody to finish my basement or build a deck than I would hire somebody to go to a ball game or go to a concert on my behalf so that I don't have to go.

Vacationing is another example. Some people take pleasue in the amenities of the destination. Others want an expedition where the journey is more enjoyable than the arrival.

So yes, the process is more challenging, but only for people who are motivated by this. For others, the process is not important.
there have been two classic studeis in stereophile, years ago, which indicated that sound quality and musical enjoyment were not highly correlated. the second part of the study appeared in the february 200 issue of stereophile.

it is my hypothesis that the enjoyment attained when listening to music is independent of the medium which delivers it. speaking for myself, i can gain the same benefits from listening to music in my car as i can from any stereo system.

as far as the quest and the result, we are all "wired" differently. i enjoy listening to different components and observing the affects upon the sound of a stereo system. it is an intellectual pursuit, in the same vein as doing a crossword puzzle.
Changelings are prone,its true, to try something different every chance we get on all levels especially the pleasurable ones.Even the androids now among us,are being influenced by our insatiable moods.And they have no feelings or physical sensations that I'm aware of which would account for their despicable behaviour.Like comparing a Mcintosh to a Levinson!Whats to come can only be best described as what Hunter Thompson would say if he could.Even he needed a vacation from this type of cyber-ranting and celebration,cheers,Bob
Enjoyment of music being independent of the medium is absolutely correct. There's no reason why they have to be correlated. You don't have to be a mechanic to enjoy a car ride. You don't have to be a chef to enjoy dinner.

When you read the interviews in Stereophile of well known people in the music industry, either performers or production people, it is notable how many of them do not have audiophile systems as we might describe it. This happens frequently enough that I remember one interviewer specifically commenting on it to the interviewee. I don't remember who it was, but I believe it was some venerable old blues musician whose system wasn't much more than a boom box that played cassettes.
If the choice were vast amounts of music on a table radio or limited amounts of music on my "system", I'd gladly choose the table radio. I definetly believe that the music is more important than the medium or hardware...

However, I find my system adds greatly to the experience - so much so, that I'll often forgo listening to a new album until I have the time to savor it on that system.

I've also spend multiple thousands on my car sytem and though significantly better than stock, I find I rarely turn it on. I can enjoy it, but I'm never as satified.

Tone, timbre, sounstaging, etc....when these are right, the result is truly thrilling!
Mrtennis: Very observant post. There are certainly many aspects to this hobby and the end result is a nice system for music listening. I agree that most benefits of music listening can be garnered from listening to a radio. Furthermore, there is no need to justify the technical aspect of the hobby by requiring that use of the end result be more important or as important as the journey. For years I heard fellow amateur radio operators try to justify the hobby on the basis that you could use your handheld in an emergency (kind of out of vogue now due to cell phones), while the real joy for me in that hobby came from the technical aspects - it was not the contact that was important but rather meeting the technical challenges that had to be navigated in order to make the contact. Your view is well supported by the activity on this site as well as other audiophile sites. The vast majority of discussion focuses on the technical aspects, product reviews etc. which gives credence to the idea that a great deal of the time people invest in this hobby is invested in those aspects of the hobby.

I suspect that it is a "gear thing" - boys and their toys and they always want new toys no matter how good the old one sounded. A'gon is geared for that - you only have to look around at systems and absolutely anyone, no matter where they are on the "gear pyramid of greatness", will always find something new or different to drool over.

The truth, however, is reflected in the regrets stated by some wizened old users who really wish they had never sold such and such a piece of gear, AND by the fact that some audiophiles simply never stop changing gear (despite statements that what they had only one year ago was the "greatest thing they ever heard").

For me, I try to stick to a technical approach to purchases - I buy what I can justify to myself from a sonic improvement perspective and something that will be reliable and give years of enjoyment. This means products like ATC and Bryston are high on my list - ugly but technically functional with a track record stretching back years and years: products with a long list of professional users (demanding/discerning ears) that continue to support these products and therefore make spare parts/repair a non-issue (a stark contrast to the latest and greatest models that change each year).

Sure I would get a kick out of the latest and greatest aesthetic looking stuff but that merry-go-round tends towards products that emphasize one thing or another - products that are simply not "all-rounders" and have there day in the spotlight (when everyone wants one - like an Apple iPhone). For example, Quads or Soundlabs might be the ultimate statement in midrange purity/clarity - however could I live long term with their obvious remaining shortcomings - NO.

I can well understand that without some "control" of the selection process then the gear thing can be a neverending journey in experimentation. To me there are two things that drive this:

1) Fear - some audiophiles are in constant fear that they are missing something. This fear stems from clever marketing by savvy audio manufacturers. This has got to the point that people are trained like Pavlov's dog to lust over high $ items that make little sense (usually tweaks with inexplicable near magical qualities). Like in the House of Usher - the slightest change in presentation becomes hyper-exaggerated (whether it is relevant or not).

2) Collecting. Like those who collect and build cars - the fun is in each project of constructing a new sound - rather than the long term daily enjoyment of well reproduced music on an "all-round" satisfying setup (for the sake of music alone). Rare and extremely expensive items (that very very few people will buy) become a source of pride for the collector. They revel in their collection of gear that few can match and the acquistion of new "coveted" items.

I guess I agree with you MrT - but not quite in the way you put it.
When you read the interviews in Stereophile of well known people in the music industry, either performers or production people, it is notable how many of them do not have audiophile systems as we might describe it.

If you make or record music it likely changes your perspective. The equipment you are using at work is often so good that you would not dream of trying to duplicate this at home. Although some of the wealthiest (those most likely to be interviewed) have built their own studios so they can work at home in a palatial surrounding. Often these stars will rely on an army of pros or techies to handle these projects for them - acoustic technicians and such - the equivalent of Rives but for the pro studio market.

So you can see their approach will be completely different.
hi shadorne:

you missed my point when i alluded to the "quest".

the quest implies a journey to achieve a sonic result.
the process of achieving the objective--a sonic result is more fulfilling than listening to music, once the result has been attained.

it does not entail never being satisfied, but rather, the opposite, namely, achieving statisfaction. there would be no reason to sell components which furthered one's sonic objectives.

the quest implies a journey to achieve a sonic result.

Some people may describe it that way (implying they have somewhere in their mind's eye what is "perfect sound"). When in all honesty, it often looks like a random walk. The quest is not actually to go anywhere - but to enjoy each leg of the journey and to take a turn and stop for a while whenever the view takes our fancy or a direction seems promising.
hi shadorne:

you still miss the point.

the quest is the voicing of a stereo system to satisfy the preference(s) of its owner. this quest involves selecting components, and tinkering.

once the stereo system has been configured to satisfy the requirements of its owner, if it is feasible, the quest is over.

the quest may take time and is often difficult and challenging. my hypotheis is that completing the quest is more enjoyable than listening to the stereo system which has been voiced consistent with the deires of its owner.

i hope i have communicated to you my intentions of this thread and the basis of my position.
A few scattered thoughts reading this interesting thread thus far;

The "quest" you've described has no end. There is no system that could possibly satisfy all requirements for all program materials. Unless the owner just listened to a few CD's/LP's over and over again, one system will always fall short somewhere, in my experience. My experience has also reflected that the "better" my system reproduces music "accurately" (this seems to be at least part of the results of moving in a "high-end" direction), the more resolving it becomes, the more ruthlessly revealing it is of poorly recorded music, and the more difficult it becomes to listen to that music with the expectations of the "quest" (yet some of this music is music I'd otherwise love to listen to). For me enjoying the music is the reason I've assembled the system in the first place. If I didn't enjoy music I sure wouldn't spend the time, effort, and money I have on building the system I have simply as a "project" or for pride of ownership. I can relate to those concepts and do experience them to some degree but they are far from supporting motivators for me.

To reflect on some of the comments on audiophile marketing and motivational seduction of getting the latest and greatest; That's no different than any aspect of advertising in general. It's all geared toward convincing us that we need something other than what we've already got in order to have it better. Can you imagine any other way to get a large number of customers to purchase your product?

Of such quests in general, and becoming anxious about actual "results" or an end in sight, I take some comfort in the words of Don McLean from the song, "Crossroads":

So there's no need for turning back
'Cause all roads lead to where we stand.
And I believe we'll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned.

Make your choices and just keep putting one foot in front of the other one. Where that takes you is more often than not, pretty amazing.

I digress (so what's new?!).
once the stereo system has been configured to satisfy the requirements of its owner, if it is feasible, the quest is over.

This assumes that the requirements are well defined and not a moving target!

IMHO, the only known cure for the endless audiophile gear merry-go-round compulsion is Norwegian Blue Tack.
I don't think a person who changes things regularly will ever reach their goal and be satisfied. It's not like a test where you can get 100% and can't go higher. There is no ultimate score in audio upgrading. It's Shadorne's point about a moving target. There are always new developments and improvements to be investigated for those with the inclination to do so. I don't think that the psychology of those who constantly change things is such that they would stop if they learn or hear about new things. It hasn't stopped them before, why would they stop now?
The real danger is reaching the goal of a perfect system. Then there is nothing to do - existential angst - either accept Camus' absurdity of life and wait for death, or, find a new challenge. But no need to go seeking, grasshopper - countless changes of equipment will not only keep the fire burning but will fuel the economy - uh,oh - with all this reference to fuel, burning and fire, the Al Gore police will be coming for me soon.
the quest is not to achieve a perfect stsereo system, as there is no perfect stereo system. the goal would be to achieve a particular voicing or tuning of the stereo system to suit one's taste. such a stereo system would be deliberately colored, in a way to please the listener.

there would be no reason to change any component, because the desired flavor would have been achieved.

it is like adding white to the color red, until the desired shade is achieved. there would be no need to change at that point.

the target is not moving. it is a fixed target, such as a particular frequency response.
This thread spans the entire gamut from anal to banal.
the quest is not to achieve a perfect stsereo system, as there is no perfect stereo system. the goal would be to achieve a particular voicing or tuning of the stereo system to suit one's taste. such a stereo system would be deliberately colored, in a way to please the listener.

I've never come across anything that would fit this description of an ideal for me either. My tastes vary widely and no one system presents diverse program materials in a way that universally sounds best to my ears for all of it. A very obvious illustration of this is that I'd rather listen to intimate vocals with sparse accompaniment on a SET amp or OTL, whereas that ideal solution for that program material can be bettered for more dense material I also enjoy like orchestral or rock. The latter is better suited to different amplification and speaker combinations IMO. I've heard quite a few varied systems over 25 years in this hobby and I do not believe any one does all things perfectly. There is always some compromise to be made - you just have to figure out where to make those compromises so that it suits your preferences most of the time. Also, those preferences may change over time. Then there is the greener grass beckoning from the other side...the yearning for something new and different. All of that can come into play to some degree in various individuals, as well as all kinds of other human foibles. The quest, as you've described it, does not end unless you accept that there is compromise. If you modified your statement to be " suit one's tastes MOST OF THE TIME" I would concede this was a a more practical goal to aim for, at least for me. I suppose if I only listened to one specific type of music the goal as you've stated it might be more practical. I certainly agree in broad terms to what you're getting at here though.
MrTennis, I agree that if one could tune/voice a system to their FULL satisfaction the quest would indeed be over.

What I find purplexing is that, once you've acheived this goal, you'd be no more inclined to enjoy this great system than to listen to a table radio.
hi mr_ man:

you have made my point. the purpose of voicing a stereo system to one's satisfaction is the enjoyment of the process of doing it, rather than listening to the result.

although i am not a hunter, the hunt may be more enjoyable than the eating. another example, is the chef who enjoys preparing food, but who has no interest in eating his creation.

its a matter of means and ends. in this case, themean is more interesting, than the end result. the process is achieving something, rather than reveling in the achievement.

one final example is in the area of sports. breaking the record is more satisfying than the award one receives for doing it.

i have maintained that you can just as easily enjoy music listening to a table radio as listening to an expensive stereo system. what can you do with a table radio , other than listen to it ? a stereo system is a collection of components wwhich can be manipulated to achieve a result.
the achieving is more important than the result.
The end result is more challenging than the process especially after I have had some really spicy food with very hot jalopenos the night before.
Being competitive, and trying to outdo yourself or other people is a trap. Clever advertising and peer pressure fuels it.
It's a fun hobby to play around with different sounds but when it leads to $10,000 per I/C, that's taking it too far IMHO.
You can search for the Holy Grail but most likely won't even recognize it even if it's staring you right in the face. Instead it's in to the next tweak.
True across the board improvements are hard to find. I find components like Sugden, McIntosh, or Tannoy comforting. Same basic design for 30+ years. Just goes to show real improvements don't happen that often and are usually a sum of many smaller improvements.
What really is happening with yearly "improvements" with most audiophile components is merely a new coloration to the sound. Prima Luna is a perfect example. Sound so colored it's new and exciting for a few months. Then the next generation comes along with a different coloration and an "upgrade' is born. Good path for the bored.
I had my fill of intentionally colored audiophile stuff when I bought a Vecteur integrated, which, like Naim, Creek, and other established audiophile brands does "something" to the sound. Long term satisfaction with that? I don't think so.
Then you've got the opposite like Halcro which, while I haven't heard it is my impression, of providing totally stripped sound. Another coloration and what i call the detail trap.
Doesn't take a lot of expertise to hear more detail, it's what most reviewers like to talk about and has little to do with the music (more like sound) IMHO. Carried too far, detail trap will render most songs unlistenable.
There are other, more important aspects of musical reproduction which are more important and will lead to more listening satisfaction across, and this is important, a larger array of music.
I love music and love the listening process. I have music on most of the time, i.e. at home, in my car, etc. That having been said, I am also a "gear head" and greatly enjoy the search process piecing together the best system possible (within my budget) to improve my listening enjoyment.

I think this process is true of most serious hobbyists. I have friends that play guitar (as do I) that are constantly buying and selling instruments in hopes of finding that "holy grail" guitar. I know guys that own $5k instruments that are very average players. I have friends that fish that are constantly upgrading their gear. I know guys with $1k fly rods. A $50 rod does the same job, just not as well. I know golfers that buy a new set of clubs every year or that have owned dozens of putters, and they justify it if knocks a couple of strokes off their score. In these examples, it doesn't mean that these people like playing guitar, fishing or golfing any more or less than anyone else, it just means that they like having top quality gear that will allow them to enjoy their hobby to the fullest and they have to means to do so. I see audiophilia the same way. Just because I enjoy buying and selling gear, one shouldn't assume that I have placed that process above the end goal, i.e. enjoying music.
I suppose I'm one of those that finds the process of tuning a system less satisfying than the result. In fact, for me, tedious would better describe the process.

In all honesty,(if this were possible)I'd prefer to pay someone else to do all the tweaking/experimenting for me.
I just want to walk in the room, turn it on and get lost in the music...

I take the same approach to cooking. Hate it. But I love good food, and truly admire those I know who are fabulous cooks.

On the other hand, I excersice hard for one hour, six days a week. I love the workout(cycling one day/resistance training the next) AND I love the result. In this case, I enjoy both aspects of the activity equally.

And finally, when I make love to my girlfriend, I most definitly enjoy the process. Fortunatly, no "results" running around yet....
the need for achievement is a powerful motivator of human behavior.

listening is not achieving. listening is passive. achievement requires that one do something, i.e, it is an active mode.

if someone else does it for you , you haven't achieved it.

i like challenges that i can overcome. thus, responding to a challenge and achieving a result is very satisfying.

what happens after a result is achieved is less important.
'if someone else does it for you , you haven't achieved it'

I dunno, I find I can be satisfied without doing anything.
"The process is more challenging than the result" is the title of this thread, and I would agree. I think the difference in our perspective is that you enjoy this particular challenge, whereas I don't.

listening is passive.

I agree with that also.

I don't look at it as an achievemnt, any more than eating a terrific meal in a fine restaurant.

I had no part in preparing it, but it's still delicious. If I found it more satisfying to make it myself, I would do that.

one can get most of the benefits of listening to music on a table radio, that one gets from listening to music played through a well set-up stereo system.

I agree, "most" of the benefits are present regardless of sound quality.
True across the board improvements are hard to find. I find components like Sugden, McIntosh, or Tannoy comforting. Same basic design for 30+ years. Just goes to show real improvements don't happen that often and are usually a sum of many smaller improvements.

Quite true but shh don't tell anyone - some of that vintage stuff sounds WAY better than the new expensive latest and greatest....Sssssh...let's try and keep it that way.
my purpose in this thread is to suggest that a brain needs to be used. doing crossword puzzles, helping someone setup a stereo system, catching a fish, and other activities are rewarding for their own sake. if you don't use your brain why have one ?

passively listening does not generally use one's brain. trying to determine why a stereo system doesn't perform according to your expectations and then doing something about it is a mental exercise. as a human being one needs mental exercises.

letting other people do things for you that you can do yourself, robs one of a sense of accomplishment.
too much passivity leads to undesirable consequences.