When you get to repeat step one above, is about the time my wife hits me in the head with a club. Sometimes I still repeat your process though :)
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I think we invariably grow accustomed to the new level of resolution / fidelity that is achieved with upgrades to our audio systems. Over a short period of time, our ears are no longer surprised by the improvements, and we subconsciously begin to simply expect that the system will perform at the new level.
I honestly think that, if we were somehow able to wave a magic wand and transform our regular listening rooms into ideally positioned windows onto a great concert hall, we would soon grow accustomed to even this - arguably perfect - live music sound.
All this reminds me of the Keats poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn. Often the excitement of the chase is more rewarding than actually achieving the goal.
"Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on..."
The best thing to do with ANY upgrade is to unwind it after a little while to make sure that the changes you are hearing are actually improvements and not just differences. Yes, you will get used to them over time and just fold them into your expectations.
Another truism is when you go listen to someone else's system and you don't hear those same improvements/changes that you got from your upgrade. Remember, everyone's reference is their own system, and you know that sound intimately. Other people's systems are based on their ears and preferences and may not correspond with yours.
I will set up my system the OLD way if this happens. Even more than once! Going back to the 'old' sound, then replacing the 'new' sound usually clears up what the real difference is.
For example: I just purchased a used Audio Research SP-10 tube preamp. I liked the sound. Then it seems I could not remember the 'old' sound. (Was it any different?) so I put it back to the old. Yeah, I am now less happy. Hmmm what is the difference. Clarity, immediacy, dynamics.
I believe there are scientific as well as mental reasons for what you are describing. First, systems build up magnetic fields due to DC voltage being present. A new componet will take awhile, but will fall victum to this effect just like anything else in the system. Using a product like Denson's DeMagic or the Ayre's DeMag disc will do wonders to restore the magic. Also, all connections oxidize over time and need to be reterminated with a touch of silver and/or some type of Deox spray. Cleaning cable spades with a brass cleaner will make a surprising difference over time. In short, a super high end system requires commitment and maintenance just like a fine sports car. Making a big commitment to high end without a corresponding commitment to keep everything working at top performance is in many ways asking for an emotional let-down. Even the very best products need some TLC from time to time to keep providing the experience they were designed to provide.
the placebo affect is alive and well. if you expect to hear a difference, you are more likely to hear one , even if there is no difference in the components of a stereo system.
if you change a component and your expectations are that you will hear no difference, you may hear a small difference or none at all.
remember, a (small) difference that makes no difference is no difference.
it's mind over matter--if you don't mind it doesn't matter.
Yes! Now I have something else to change/improve to move towards a sound that I am happier with. Sometimes it's change sometimes it's improvement and sometimes it's both. Adding vibration removing devise(Navcom pucks) is a change that led to an improvement in detail equaling cleaner leading edges throughout the spectrum equaling more detail. Now that there is more detail I can hear more and want to change something that I wasn't aware of before. Isn't this one example of how our systems evolve?
No. Never. Something is an improvement or it isn't. Improvements are hard to obtain above a modest investment - but you can easily get all kinds of coloration that will be pleasing or impressive and excitingly different. Added distortion and coloration inevitably become fatiguing after a while though. Even one note bass or boom boom tizz sounds really great until it dawns on you that every darn track sounds pretty much the same - all heard through the same pleasant but colored and distorted lens!
I'd suggest that if you have to change all the time then something is fatiguing you (it could simply be bad room acoustics,for example) and/or you hear with your eyes not your ears - meaning it only sounds good if you have a new toy on the rack rather then when your ears tell you it sounds good.