Finding a way to be happy without spending money is actually possible.
I'm essentially there now.
I've never actually heard a better sounding system, at this point, than the one I have. That does not mean to me that there aren't better systems of course. I just haven't heard them yet. I fully intend to, even if that means some travel. But, I believe that even if I heard better, I just don't think I'd be thinking of what gear to buy next. If I could never buy another audio item, I know I'd honestly be just fine thank you. I may want to buy more tweaks if I get bored, and at some point I believe I will, but as far as audio problems left to solve??...they're all gone...all have been put to bed and everything now is uniformly excellent. It doesn't matter what my expectations are that day before I flip the system on, the sound that greets me is always excellent and fully engaging. And it doesn't matter what the recording quality is or the time of day...none of that matters...I mean when was the last time you heard someone say that about their system?? It's a really hard system for me to actively want to stop listening to.
But then, even though it took me almost 30 freakin' years to actually build it (that's a helluva long time!), I still always thought in terms of having some sort of exit strategy to definitely shoot for...even as I kept having to redefine my budget upward against my expectations, as well as revise what I thought was possible for me to attain for the money - and what I believed I'd be truly satisfied with, as the years went by.
I've recently heard a $10k+ amp, $14k tt, $14k speaker combo that's twice as expensive as my whole system and I heard a sound that was better in a couple ways and not in others. But, the improvement was actually very slight while the betterment of my setup in the remaining areas was substantial. But, does it tug on me that after all I've done up to now that there is something of some performance area still left on the table?? Of course not. Certainly not at those prices(!)...but, honestly, not really at all. I mean I've accomplished everything I set out to do and more. Sure, if I won the lottery, maybe. But, I just don't even entertain such fantasies anymore. The only thing I dream of now is using the equity built up in my home to get construction started on adding on a listening room later this year. Much cheaper and better for me than trying to find a suitably good other home to move to and no, the room won't have to be custom-designed, sound-wise, and not much more than a good choice of dry wall, insulation and dedicated lines need be involved.
I agree with Erik, after some point you end up learning not how to spend more, but how to spend less. That's actually the biggest barrier to the hobby for newcomers, I think. There doesn't seem to be much of a substitute for the direct experience of the hands-on initiation of figuring out how to spend more before you get your feet wet enough to then figure out how to spend less. I'm not sure I would've been as eager to set it all in motion, if I knew from the beginning how much would be involved, how much it would really cost and how long it would take me.
Then again, knowing the end result??...yep, I'm sure I'd definitely do it all again!
Hmmm. this sounds like the best rig I've ever put together!!
what to do? what to do now?
which is exactly what i did... with some regrets.
or, better put, sell off most of it and try some new approach I've not experienced previously.
, an all SS rig.... then try an all tube outfit.
ala tube and sS rig, then try a SET low powered Hi Eff speaker arrangement.
or go all digital.
or purely analog.
horns? single driver or All Active speakers?
there is something about exchanging pieces rather than upgrading and sticking with a superior performing system, once that level is achieved.
though, this requires a very 'balanced' audio semi nut and not a card carrying audio nervosa philiac'.
who's to say why someone feels constant change is the best plan? or that, in other words, change simply for the sake of change appeals to someone?
I've found in a lot of people life is all about three vital areas...
for some, its all three that they constantly have to acquire.
Regardless, this latter audio nut is sure gaining experience despite the fact they had a turnstyle and loading dock built onto their house, and now know all the UPS and FED EX driver's kids, and wife's name, birthdays, etc.
it also means they have a solid 'in' with a distrubutor or dealer and or quite deep pockets
I adore the idea of having 3 entirely separate rigs.
All Tube rig.
a hybrid tube and SS/digital outfit.
OK, so four.... a smoking HT setup.
if the rig is indeed the best sounding thing you've amassed to date and then one begins exchanging things which are predominately sideways steps, it ain't the system or its gear that needs a closer look at, its more likely the 'nut' behind the wheel.
I'll bet a lot of Audiogoners have systems that are ALREADY better than they need to be in terms of reproducing the mostly mediocre or worse recordings available commercially. The real work is finding good sounding LP's, CD's, etc., ones with sound quality equal to that of the music.
And that's why he charges so much for it. https://www.better-records.com/search_adv.aspx?option=s_name&min_price=1&max_price=&manu...
For your favorite record, and on the right system, totally worth it.
There is no cure I am aware of, nor should there be. When you are done you are already "six feet under", in a manner of speaking.
As for the expenses, many other things are just as or more expensive. The trick is to be able to keep it under control, this doesn't mean stop.
I keep hunting for best pressings too.
I am very fortunate in that I am entirely satisfied with my system which incidentally has seen no changes since 2015 aside from a repair and software update. I have no plans to change components and figure that one day I’ll have to replace my decade plus old phono cartridge. These days the $ I spend on this hobby is all devoted to getting more music. To me, reaching that point means you’ve made it! And I have.
It’s a hobby. There is no perfect system. I find that new stuff makes my records sound new again. And really I have audio stuff to listen to music, so if new stuff reinvigorates music I enjoy, it’s a huge win. The new stuff is not necessarily better, it’s just different. I like vintage audio these days so I have a parameter of sound I am going for. The only reason to stop (other then money of course) is that you’re no longer curious. It happens.
And as hobbyists, I think there’s always an interest in tinkering, improving, etc.
What helped me was shifting my focus to the records (or whatever your preferred medium is). Lots to learn, lots of music to get played that’s new and different to you and a huge amount of history to the recordings, the artists, etc. You can get all geeky on pressings if you like to improve sonics more.
But, it isn’t just something to keep me busy.
It’s the food for the machinery. And into the maw it goes. Some stuff gets put on a shelf and forgotten (yeah, I do purges every once in a great while) and some stuff becomes part of me.
After all, that’s what we’re chasing this good sound for, right?
It will definitely keep you off the street, and probably help appease those "I need something new/different" blues. Ain't no cure.
I like to upgrade until i'm looking over a cliff that is impractical to cross:
eg: I have heard every headphone and headphone amp on earth and the only way to get more is big money electrostatic= i'm done.
eg: I have bought the latest DSLRs and lenses out there, the only way to improve is to switch to mirrorless= I'm done,
eg: I just upgraded my dac, speakers, interconnnects, and amp and I'm in listening heaven, but it's possible to improve with a power re generator, it's possible to improve with better cables, it' s possible to improve with a better music server, it's possible.... but i could spend alot of money going nowhere= it's time to stop.
I’ve been an audiophile for over 30 years. And I’ve been on the audio upgrade treadmill for most of those years. But, now I’m retired both as an audiophile and literally.
Is there a cure? Maybe, for some of us but surely not for all.
You might find, at some point, that circumstances could present themselves, as it has with me, in such a manner that interests, priorities and commitments shift.
The good news.
Nightly, I’m spinning LPs, listening to music and not the system. And my experience is that I’m profoundly enjoying and appreciating the creative variety of artists performances. I’m digging deep into my collection. Didn’t we get into this hobby because of the music anyway?
I have a very good system (Neo Vintage), but it certainly isn’t the best. Within our audio club, there are rigs, that in various ways, are truly better than mine. And that’s OK.
Contentment in life is hard to find. But, if found, even fleetingly, the music, once again returns to the forefront. It is possible, and for some, it may arrive later in life... oh well,...back to Aretha...
Thanks guys for some very interesting and diverse views.
I'm glad to see so many of you seem very happy with your rigs as they are, with perhaps only some minor tweaks being considered..
I think one of my favourite responses was from @blindjim:
if the rig is indeed the best sounding thing you've amassed to date and then one begins exchanging things which are predominately sideways steps, it ain't the system or its gear that needs a closer look at, its more likely the 'nut' behind the wheel.Something I think many of us have been guilty of at some point.
I had personally finished upgrading about 5 weeks ago, then two fellow audiophiles suggested I try something new, so begrudgingly, I gave their suggestions a whirl, thinking it would be a marginal - one of those "sideways improvements" one of you talked about, BUT, once again it proved to be beneficial
I'm definitely NOT in the "shop-o-holic" camp, because I do not upgarade my components that often - e.g. I have only ever owned one turntable (OK, I tweaked the crap out of that), two sets of speakers and 4 amps over a 38 year period and I am only on my third phono stage since getting back into vinyl around 9 years ago, so I figure I'm doing pretty well, especially after reading the lists of components some of you have acquired over the years.
But this is the first time my system has approached it's current level of excellence, so I was curious if "upgrade-itis" is a persistent conditon or if it wanes as one gets older?
That would give me something I could tell my wife - there actually has an end in site :-)
I too have been more guilty of those "frivolous purchases" WRT another hobby i.e. 35mm photography. But I think todays SLR cameras/lenses are now so good, that you do not have to break the bank to get excellent images and the latest developments are more often improvements in the "experience" rather than image quality. So I have now reached my personal "photography nirvana"
Whereas the Audio world seems to keep coming up with "better sound"
I think I may be aproaching this post from @granodemostasa ...
I like to upgrade until i'm looking over a cliff that is impractical to cross
My "cliff" these days is Cost Benefit
BUT ! - if the lottery ticket come up - who knows :-)
Regards - Steve
Is there a cure? No. I fin that even when I have my system sounding really good, I always get sucked in by the hype of this component or that and then it gnaws at me for months about whether X will really be smoother, better imaging, better soundstage, etc. Generally, they have been an improvement, or at worst, a lateral move to a slightly different sound. A big improvement, like a "blow you away" one -- no. But you never know until you do it. Thus, no cure, other than the lack of money!
Great thread. Like some of the other posters I came into higher audio a bit later in life but have a similar experience in collecting wine for over 20years. At some point, and that point is completely unique to every individual, the return in better quality of wine for the additional dollars paid is quite low, and the game reverts to ostentatious displays of wealth. I think the same could be said of audio gear (or is that heretic?). The whole point of both drinking good wine and listening to music on an nice system is the experience that both provide; whether it's sharing a great bottle of wine with a partner or good friends at a dinner or after listening to music alone or with some company and emerging from the room with that big happy grin on your face.......
If anyone cares to read the opinion of an old timer, I will offer my two cents. Building a sound system is not about achieving the "ultimate sound system" as one might believe. Rather, it is the pursuit of that imaginary system that provides the rush. Years ago, when "Stereo Review" was published, there was a monthly cartoon from a fellow named Rodriguez. He once drew a cartoon of two men in lab coats holding RCA cables that had the diameter of a fire hose in company CEO's office. The caption read something like: "And sir, after extensive and exhaustive testing, we found these X45AXZ cables to sound....a little better." Admittedly, it is more a visual, but you get the idea.
As we age, our hearing changes and musical detail diminishes. Cold, but true. I could never afford to chase upgrades even when I was much younger due to financial reasons although I have listened to some truly esoteric sound systems. However, after one investment in a stem to stern rebuild/cleaning/maintenance, my Pioneer SX 838 still "shines" in my ears. (I can hear some of you laughing!) The point is, obtain what you need to fulfil your own musical tastes. And, above all, don't chase you own shadow because you will never catch it.
Kindest regards to everyone,
I like the analogy to photography that someone else made.
I've been "serious" about that hobby longer than this one and after buying a lot of bodies, lenses, lighting gear, etc. finally reached a point where I feel like I have everything I need and that it's all good enough. Mind you, I don't shoot with top of the line Canon or Nikon gear where the body alone costs a few thousand dollars. Most of my photographer friends have "better" more expensive bodies and lenses than I do.
My goal is to enjoy myself and to create the best images I can with the gear at hand and not put myself in debt. It's about the experience and making sure I have tools that are good enough to achieve the results I want without spending beyond my means.
I say all that because it gives me hope that I'll get to that point with this hobby. I'm not there yet, I have been continuously trying out new pieces and building multiple systems and would like that to end at some point. I don't think I've spent more than around $3,000 on a single piece and buy most of my gear second hand so that I can sell it without losing much if anything if I decide I like something better.
I've been doing a lot more experimentation lately, moving pieces back and forth from one system to another and trying to find the right synergy between pieces. I really want to experiment with acoustic treatments, but I'm not super handy and have some space challenges, but I think that's the next direction for me.
I doubt that I'll ever get to the point where my system is better than anything else I've ever heard, but I'm at a point now where I've only heard a handful of systems that sound better and more importantly, it sounds better to me than I could have previously imagined.
I hope I can apply the ethos of doing more with "less" (in terms of expenditures) I have with photography to this hobby as well and arrive at a point where the upgrades will be few and far between.
To sum up, I think I'm a little bit of both #1 and #2 in the OP - I buy a lot of stuff, but it's in the pursuit of finding out whether different pieces can have a substantial impact (they can!) and to better understand what I like and what fits in best with my system.
I agree with @geoffkait that one addiction is often dealt with by replacing it with another (the shrinks can weigh in on that one).
The solution I proposed-- chasing records (whatever your medium) at least gives you more to feed the machine and is aimed at what I think is the whole purpose of this hobby- to reproduce music for enjoyment. At least that's how I got off the hamster wheel. (I still change cartridges, replace worn tubes, etc. but I'm not seeking equipment).
Maybe I'm an oddity in this- I will put together a system and once it is 'good' in my estimation, I'm not really in the market. Over the years, I have assembled a number of systems, but it's not like I'm constantly on the search for the latest and greatest. I've kept most of my stuff in these systems a long time.
"However, after one investment in a stem to stern rebuild/cleaning/maintenance, my Pioneer SX 838 still "shines" in my ears. (I can hear some of you laughing!) The point is, obtain what you need to fulfil your own musical tastes."
Not me, I'm not laughing, I love my Pioneer! The Pioneer sx 3400 (have 3 of them) is one of my price no object reference amplifiers.
Only you can say what you prefer from your system. BUT once you learn what makes a component sound the way it does, then you can figure out how to improve your system. Understand different designs SS vs. tubes, how tube sizes make a difference (small, large), tube rectification, tube regulation, choke loaded, transformer coupled, direct heated triode, class A, Class D, etc. You have to experiment to see what you like.
You also can have an existing component modified that can be the best way to go. The majority of manufacturers do not use high quality parts so upgrading them can possibly have a bigger impact on sound for much less than swapping out a component. Better power supply capacitors (think Nichicon), AC filter chokes, output resistors (Shinkoh, Caddock, Amtrans, Vishay), upgrade the volume control, just for starters.
...40+ years of "the chase." I've been working my way --backwards-- these days, as the room tuning (#1) the room integration with the speakers (#2) the source (#3) and the hardware (#4) reach my emotions deeply. ALL the work you have put in to this point will pay back royally in improving your power and grounding, however that is defined in YOUR system. For me, it meant power company adding a new transformer at the street (complained of power surges)...electrician isolating my sound room at the panel...dedicated 10ga line in...Furutech (or others) outlet and cover. Furutech (or others) male plug upgrade to my hardwired power conditioner with a shunt in the power conditioner-and, yes, it IS better than the amp straight from the wall.) Everything you do AFTER they rig is great with make it all purer and more musical. Happy tunes!
I do wonder how much upgradeitis is simple the need for novelty and change like in any hobby collection. I know that I could quite easily upgrade my system but I have toyed with the idea of having several loudspeakers that have entirely different presentations to suit different music/mood/volume needs (steve guttenberg has a similar idea and is posted on his channel). Of course it then down to which speaker (etc) but I can envisage having say 3-4 pairs of $2000 speakers with entirely different signatures and or design helping to prevent that stagnation from having your favourite music sounding the same every time you play it! The counter argument would easily be that an $8000 well chosen speaker might well trounce the 4 cheaper ones.