Top 10 Snafus to avoid when building a good rig

OK, I'm sure we'll come up with more than 10. Whatever.

Maybe I'll compile the top 10 once we get a few.

I'll start with my #1: avoid putting speakers that are too big in a room that is too small
thinking that paying more will give you better sound.
Listening to others opinions rather than trusting your own ears
Attributing sonic characteristics to components or cables that are in fact the result of INTERACTIONS between those components or cables and what they are connected to, and/or other parts of the system.

Seconding Ahendler's comment, I believe that kind of mis-attribution is a major reason for over-reliance on the opinions of others, because it can result in unfounded expectations that the reported experiences of others will be consistent across different systems.

See Bryon Cunningham's outstanding post here.

Best regards,
-- Al
11-10-11: Ahendler
Listening to others opinions rather than trusting your own ears

Gotta go with this one too.
Falling for the first pretty faceplate that comes along.
0)Not having a clue what you really want from a rig.
1)Basing purchases on reviews.
2)Asking in forums which one is best for you.
3)buying something because in theory it has to be the right one.(or type)
4)Handing big money to a complete stranger at a show who promises to build you a product "as soon as he has a chance"...
5)handing money to a complete stranger who promises to revamp you average item into a worldclass product
6)buying a turntable missing ANYTHING.
7)not taking ANY claim with a large grain of salt.
8)believing any of this stuff other folks post without analizing it and understanding it.
9)not knowing yourself
Convincing yourself that a particular component is going to be the holy grail, thus justifying spending more money on it than it is really worth or can be resold at.
Judging deficiencies in your system before new components/cables are fully broken in.
How about plopping down a new pair of speakers and then doing everything possible to make them sound better, including buying all kinds of different electronics, ICS, etc., but forgetting to tweak the placement and get things tuned in first.
Failing to take into account the environment in which it will reside.

Have you fell victim to any of those things on your list?

Number 1 See Elizabeth's post
Number 2 see number 1
I have 5,
Be careful not to get wrapped up in what faceless internet posters you will likely will never meet and less likely to ever have in your room say.
Trusting equipment reviewers.
Buying any upgrade when you have done zero to your room.
Paying more attention to gear than music.
Dont believe every wire, plug, rock, clock and tweak works. Even the few that do actually work (sadly most wires dont even "work") that doesnt mean your room, gear or both are ready to actually hear any gains.
#1 Calling it a rig. I have never thought of using the word "rig" when it comes to an audio system. Thats going to open a whole can of worms as people try to tweak more "rigality" into their system.
Trying to evaluate gear at a hi-fi joint.
Could this thread be followed up by a "Top 10 musts when building a good rig" thread? Let's look at this from the otherside as well.
Buying a component that "looks good" but doesn't sound good in your listening environment.
forgetting to enjoy the music
I have heard big speakers in a small room and sometimes they can sound very good. Thus....
1. Listen to the speakers if you can get them through the front door and know your room
2. Know the type of music you like and audition with that, not the Amanda Mcdoom or other hifi recording recommended.
3. Match the amp and speakers. Have enough power and or efficency of speaker.
4. Know the room and place the speakers in at least two different configurations in the room.
5. Realize that what you like today, you will likely change in 2-6 months.
6-10 listed above
Davt, I confess -- guilty. Mea culpa, mea culpa. I often refer to my set-up as a rig. Where's Audiofiel when you need him??
Yes I have failed at #1 and #6

I have purchased stuff failing the #1 rule.
I just want to try it out anyway.
Sometimes there are not even any reviews!! (the Audio research PH-2 was one such box I bought. I still have it and enjoy it.I watch for it and have only seen three here offered, and one of those I bought!)
Most of the time I have been happy with the item. Once I made a lot of money doing it(ARC SP-10), and another time i was unhappy and pissed about it, but WAS able to return it to dealer.(Bryston DAC)

For #6 I did it, and have to say I was young and stupid at the time.

The biggest things on turntable blunders are missing counterweight, or missing headshell. Run not walk away. (unless a universal headshell mountwhere you already have a headshell you have tried and it fits!!!)
A corollary of that is do not buy a non fully functional auto return turrntable!
My own Waterloo was buying two separate Garrard-LAB100 P.O.S. TTs to play around. (pretty much dirt cheap) They were soon tossed into a dumpster.
In thier infinite wisdom, With the LAB100 Garrard decided to make a product where if two parts together were good, 17 Rube-Goldbergesque were better. And they proved they were idiots with that design. Lucky for them the buyers spoke and they folded. What horrors they would have come up with if they had be able to continue.. I shudder...

So I admit I am not perfect either.
And my breaking one of my own rules?

Trusting the advice of "dealers" who you assume know what they are selling and how it is supposed to work.They will walk all over you until they squeeze the deal they want and won't stop until they intimidate and humiliate you into buying.Make sure you ask every question you can think of and drain every ounce of patience out of these weasels,then buy it used.Avoid dealers with names in the business like Ultimate,high end,upscale and the like.These guys should be selling cars.If they put you on hold hang up.If you are looking for advice see a priest,if you want to learn about audio make friends,join clubs,read and read and listen and listen.Never assume a dealer knows anything about audio because they sell it.
Top 10 might be too much but so far only top 5 found without placing in particular order I'd like to finalize the following:
#1 from Hotmailjbc >>Forgetting to enjoy the music<<
#2 from Ahendler >>Listening to others opinions rather trusting your own ear<<
#3 from Schipo >>Thinking that paying more will give you better sound<<
#4 from Almarg >>Attributing sonic characteristics to components or cables that are in fact the result of INTERACTIONS between those components or cables and what they are connected to, and/or other parts of the system<<
#5 from Marakanetz >>Building system for a specific type of music<<
Never, and I mean never, buy a used turntable unless you can go pick it up and have it demo'd to be fully functional and operational, including the cartridge checked out with the 'track record', before you hand over the cash.
Good one hotmail.

It can be hard to avoid that one when everyone is saying why the stuff you have that you think sounds good and actualy leverages modern technology is inherently flawed in some way because of the evli conspiracy to deny people good sounding music. Of course vinyl and tube gear is the exception to this, because these are the reference standard from years gone by when everything was so much better, especially technology and those evil conspirators started plotting the demise of good sound.
Elizabeth nailed it for me.
Here are my Top Snafus that I've done. I know it is common sense to you all but it wasn't for me at the times.

1) Speaker placement and Room Treatments for your listening space.

2) Getting caught up in the hype/reviews/marketing of a product.

3) Rushing into buying something.

4) Overspending on repairs of vintage gear.

5) Rushing into making repairs/upgrades of vintage gear without doing some legwork first. Cleaning the item yourself first, doing a lot of critical listening, researching more on the net, etc etc.

6) Spending money on nicer equipment only to neglect spending some money on decent cabling.

7) Foolishly trusting pro audio techs or part stuffers to repair home audio gear.
1) Buying based on sound quality -

This doesn't work, because there is no indication that the product will play nicely with your other gear. The Brits understand this and build systems, in the US we buy products.

Best way to buy is by looks or by weight.

2) Having a small record collection -

Sorry, those nine Diana Krall records may sound great on your new rig, but they are not going to sustain you. In fact, you might as well junk all of the female jazz lite vocalists, Cole, Barber, Krall, Monheit et al. Buy some Pantera or a nice Dvorak Cello Concierto.

3) Thinking that you know something -

Electricity has no memory. Wires are wires. The power company puts out a dirty sine wave. The power company puts out a clean sine wave. Tubes sound better. Solid state sounds better. Class D sounds better. Actually, I have no class and that is best of all. LPs are better, CD is better, Hi res downloads are better, open reel tape is better. My buddie's rig is better.

4)Letting your system determine your musical choices -

Unless you listen to a diet of pure metal, or a diet of string quartets and madrigals, your best bet is system that plays all music well, rather than a system that plays some music great and the rest like crap.

If you find that your system is making you buy one type of music because it sounds best, you have already driven into the ditch. Get a rope and a tow truck.

5) Thinking that there is a relationship between price and performance -

see #1 above.

6) Assuming that the better rig will put you in touch with the music in some greater and more beautiful way -

Let's admit it, Audiophilia is narcisism in its most unbridled form. You are creating your system, just like the artist creates the music that you will play on it. Really......really?

7) Some types of music are "better" than others -

Just like some races, or genders, or nationalities are better than others. Really? Get yourself some rap music and have a good listen before you put it down. Enjoy some opera, it doesn't all sound like cat's in heat fighting in a pillow case. Broaden your horizens. Live a little.

8) Not having a sense of humor -

It cost a lot of money to find out that you don't have to spend a lot of music. Lighten up, laugh a little. Put on that National Lampoon or Fireside Theatre record. I best that most of you have never even put a comedy record on your rig for fear that it would melt. Richard Pryor is pretty funny, and so are you.

9) Not sharing -

If you enjoy the hobby, let your loved ones and friends know. Share the transformative power of music with them.

10) Defunct formats suck and are not worth our time.j

Mono, LPs, 78s, 8-tracks, Edison cylinders and Diamond Discs. Ya, some may not sound as good as your SACDs or hi res downloads, but the truth is that there is some music on these formats that has not, and will never be released again. don't cut yourself off from an important part of our musical heriage based on format. You'll be missing the music.
hi mapman:

i disagree with you about big speakers in a small room in this respect.

i like planar speakers.

so, i find that a big panel speaker in a small room, e.g, magnepan 20.1, will be preferred to almost any cone speaker, properly set up.

now, i'll agree that a large panel is optimized in a larger room, but it can still sound pretty good in a small room, ut not its best.

note not only room size counts, but room conditions are equally important.

i'll add one maxim:

sacrificing tonality for dimensionality.

her is one more "truism":

most components are not better than one another, just different.
The number one SNAFU to avoid, is buying into the Tenets of high-end audio. Once you do that, you are already lost.
Avoid not having enough money!

Yes, I have tried large Maggies in a small room also.

Not that they can't work there, more that large speakers (including Maggies) are harder to place especially in smaller rooms so getting the the right setup can be more of a challenge.

Also, good large speakers tend to cost a lot more than good small speakers, so getting these for a small room may be overkill and also be harder to get to sound right or even to achieve their potential, even if placement is not an issue. Sometimes less is more, especially in smaller rooms.
Thinking that it can't get any better.
Been up that road a few times.
Can't get any better than listening live.
Underestimating the importance of speaker/amp matching. Its easy to misjudge an amp or speakers. I always cringe when I read a reviewer making summery judgement on either after using it with only one set of components.
Audio (expert who worked in stereo shop when he was 13) friend who tells you, insists, that he/she can improve your system by:
Moving your speakers
Moving a wall
Tearing down a cabinet
Asking for screw driver and soldering gun
Best advise- Enjoy The Music!
Funny - the ones saying not to rely on faceless internet posters are usually the serial posters having to comment in every thread.

11-10-11: Hotmailjbc
forgetting to enjoy the music

Amen. I think there are some, if not many that I've met who seem to be into this for other reasons, and that's fine too. For me it's the music, and yes, it is a huge SNAFU for me whenever I get so caught up in the gear that I loose the enjoyment of the music in the process.

As far as the gear itself, there are really no big mistakes, just lessons. Mistakes come when you don't learn the lesson the first time round. Otherwise I actually find it very valuable to learn by actually trying things out.

The biggest fallacy that I see as a common ground to all the "mistakes" folks are mentioning that I happen to resonate with: many of them come down to the misguided notion that there is that there is some absolute objective goal to be attained that can be quantified and qualified. That is a fruitless journey down a rocky path. Find your own path. Know yourself, and enjoy getting to know yourself.

I would disagree with those who advise to ignore reviews and ignore the input of others. I'd suggest you take both as a point of departure for figuring things out on your own as to what you like. You may find that you actually agree with the opinions of some reviewers and or some faceless (to you) individuals posting here. You certainly might just as well disagree. The point is to decide for yourself what you prefer, what suits your tastes, your music, your listening room, your life, your priorities, budget, etc.

Another big one for me, and I don't think I do this much myself, but I do see others doing it frequently....taking this stuff too seriously. It's just a stereo a toaster. There are far more meaningful things in life, and life is way too short to actually expend energy in making so many extraneous things like this right or wrong...better or or white. I'm not suggesting to not pursue things with passion...just to maintain some perspective and balance and simply have fun and enjoy. Perhaps it's the internet and chat sites in general, but quite often this seems to be lacking in critical conversations. I think, again, that it comes down to some notion of objectivity and absolutes and hierarchy, none of which has much to do, at least for me, with a deeper enjoyment of life and those around me.
I liked the statement with >>9 Diana Krall records collection<< to play on $50k worth of equipment LOL!
some components are better than others.

in fact. components are not absolutely better, but rather present a trade off of improvements and degradations.
Where can I get me sum'dem absolutely mo'betta components?! I'd like to trade in my degradation for some improvement for to make my music better! I say, accept no substitutes and look for the "Mo'Betta" certification badge. 9 out of 10 dentists have been paid off so that you can bask in the light of their endorsement of your irreproachable decision to go with the best your money can buy!!! It'll get you past the bouncer at heaven's gates. While you're here with the rest of the unwashed riffraff, you can impress your family, friends and neighbors who will all hold you in highest esteem for demonstrating knowledge beyond ordinary mortal's understanding. Why I'm getting weak in the knees just thinking about it. I am unworthy.
Said it well. I get the impression from reading many threads that a number of people don`t have confidence in their own ears.
The components that elicit favorable - emotional responds and cause a strong connection with your music, that`s what you want(I hope). If others have a opinion or reaction different from yours, so what.
Substituting $ for experience. One of the more useful/enjoyable aspects of a hobby is that it's an outlet for risk-taking. Part of figuring out what you like is exposure to what you don't like.
Not knowing when you've finished. Related to that, forgetting any change will change the sound of your system and different is'nt better.
It seems very hard for all of us, to say "I'm done now, that's the sound I was looking for"
The commoner respoonse is, yes that's very good, but maybe if I change X for Y, it'll be better.

My list some from my mistakes and some threads on Audiogon.

1. Buying a speaker that claims to have very deep bass.

Take those bad boys home and whow! That bass is getting my room excited and is ruining the music. Setting expectations about how much bass is possible from a fairly inexpensive floor standing speaker. Expecting to much is a huge and mistake.

2. Not listening to or not being aware of your reactions to the sound. Ask your self am I relaxed while the system is playing or am I sitting on the edge of my chair. Is the sound involving or is it just a good PA System? Does the music evoke an emotional response? It should...

3. Is the sound cohesive. A cohesive sound will also sound pure and not blurred. Complex speakers can sound like complex speakers.

Those are my top three and yes I have kissed a few frogs..yuck!

Say what dude??Its a secret.
To be frankly with you I don't know when I'm finished and I like that fact.


You are making things way to difficult..You simply purchase products with "less degradation" (dud I spell that correctly?). Be sure you trade in your products with "more degradation". Over time you should come to that desired state (not Nebraska) of owning a system that has N9's degradation free. Not sure how long that will take.

Press on.

you'd think all this was life or death, illness or health, or peace or war. Hell, it's just stereo systems.
Jim - thanks for the suggestions. I will skip over Nebraska in my search for a more desirable state, free from degradation. Perhaps my own private Idaho. I suppose the time that might take would depend on where you are coming from and where you are going. Also, what means of travel are you using.

Rok2id - Yeah, my point exactly. Stick around and you'll see lots more of the same. To be fair, the site is actually devoted to conversation around this stuff - but, yes, it is taken way to seriously when there is no perspective or's all just and death are certainly not remotely in the balance.

To add to the burgeoning list of "mistakes" people make - yet another is build a system without any consideration of how each of the components interact with each other, or perhaps worse, how the system interfaces with the room they'll be putting it into, and or not treating the room as if it were just as vital a component as any other. This came up with the Maggie bit, which Ill add a bit of input on: I've followed a good friend's progress as he tried to integrate Magneplanar 20.1's into his purpose built moderately sized listening room. Among things he tried; Nye stands, Tom Tutay Xover, biamping with a number of highly effective and wonderful amplifiers, adding and modifying room treatments in an already well sorted out room. In both of our opinions he could not get them to work well in that room, where other speakers shine brightly, for whatever reasons (and those reasons could be many). My own opinion is that the speakers overpowered the room and smeared the soundstage. He ended up selling them and going to (back to) conventional dynamic driver speakers which work great in his room. He'd had a similar problem with Quad 988's in the same room - they simply did not work well in that space and or with the knowledge and treatments he was utilizing. Most, if not all, of the dynamic and horn speakers I've heard in that space have sounded great and have not exhibited any tendencies that either the Maggies or Quads had.

On reproducing deep bass - my own experience is that it is a very expensive aspect of sound reproduction to get right, where the nuance of experiencing low notes the way one might in a the presence of the instrument that produced them, is actually carried out with some degree of fidelity and remotely similar impact, and are well integrated with the rest of the spectrum, and delivered without serous detriment to the rest of the range. Inexpensive solutions just don't seem to cut it, from my own experiences trying and listening to what others try. Those that do seem to do so at some significant cost. The most economical I can think of, that actually occurred to me as natural and impactful, as well as seamlessly integrated, has been the satellite subwoofer system that Audiokinesis makes, where multiple subs do the ground work.