ultimate final word how2acquire appropriate systm

Seeking or looking for best sound system one's budget allows. One man's/woman's world class top choice #1 system may be another man's/woman's disaster. How does one go about finding the most pleasing set-up for oneself if listening is utterly the only way to really know what's best for "me", when it's obvious that it's nearly impossible to hear even a fraction of what's out there. And the audiophile mags have been some what a failure at reporting everything that's out there that deserves recognition regardless of the company's advertisment budget for that mag. In this discussion I hope to hear suggestions on where to start e.g. speakers first or should the source be the first to choose. When visiting a show room and auditioning speakers for example is it wise to listen to a mid-fi cd player or should the top of the line cd player be used. I am supposing that most of us on agon are hoping to reach class "a" systems, but for those who do not aspire to this isn't it still wise to hear speakers with the best electronics, after all technology is always trickling down to the lesser expensive models and today's $10,000 cd player sound will most likely be found on tomorrows $1,000 cd player. So questions to those that haven't given up on finding nirvana: #1 What component should be chosen first? #2 What should the remainder components be: hi-fi or just mid-fi? #3 Shouldn't using A-B testing be the choice method of the buyer? #4 Should reference equipment be used in the A-B testing listening audition? #5 Should we reward good companies with our spending choices? If we want there to be a healthy influx of good equipment at reasoneable prices shouldn't we show them support by buying them today. Also we can spread the word here by listing good products at decent prices. Let's play, thanks for reading this long question.
Just wanted to add one more thing. I used to beleive that speakers are the most important part of the system then I realized later on that amplifiers matter. Just recently I learned that a good source is significantly important. The point I am making is that all the components need to be good, I know to many agoners this is obvious but not everyone is aware of this. The source brings out the sounds recorded during the recording session, if the turntable or cd deck do not pull all the info out of the disk accurately including the microdetail the air the soundstage there is no way any component after the source can remedy the shortchanged signal. There is no way a preamp or power amp or speaker can figure out what was left out or added on and then compensate for the mishap. So ultimately a poor sounding source will be a concern that can only be remedied by replacing the source with a better component. Next the preamp, it can only remain neutral at its best. Any detour from what went in as a signal is wrong. In other words it can either remain neutral which is desirable or it can color the sound which is bad. Though sometimes on some systems the colorization appears to help because other components are not excellent it is best to work with a system that does not rely on imperfect components to compensate for other's imperfections. And lastly a truely good speaker that is revealing of everything is desireable because that helps us feel the live event in our own living rooms. All the detail and ambiance can be felt.
Stay within your price range.Find a reasonable amount for what you can afford and let the salesperson know upfront what your dealing with. This will let him or her know not to waste time with anything higher priced.If that person tries to talk you higher you know you need to find another sales person.Also consider buying just enough equipment to get by temporarily and add to it later.This will give you more money to focus on maybe an upgrade you couldn't afford if you tried to buy too many peices all at once...Be patient!
Trust "your" ears knowbody else....Good Luck!
Having spent several 10s of thousands of dollars over the years changing out components, I have come to the conclusion it never soulds like live music. If I had it to do over, I would decide generally what I liked, "i.e.", tubes or solid state, cones, panels, horns, etc. then buy components that are compatable on the used market. After I got the system together, I would spend the money saved on software & concert events. While I appreciate the music on my high end system I still enjoy it, although to a lesser extent, on a boom box. After a certain point the dollars go up much faster than improvements made in the sound. Also, don't forget room treatment. Even the best system can often be improved much more by making room corrections than by upgrading components.