Use Your Own Ears

I've been an audiophile for 20+ years and have owned everything from Klipsch to Wilson Audio. My most recent system consisted of Densen electronics and Wilson Audio Sashas. Despite having what is considered a good set-up, something was wrong and I couldn't put my finger on it. I recently decided to get a new modest system to utilize with my television. I purchased a Peachtree Audio 220 amp and Nova preamp, NAD 565bee CD Player, and Revel F52 speakers. To my surprise and delight I enjoy the Revel system more than any other system I've owned. I've listened to many speakers over the years,Rockport, older Magico's,just to name a few and have always stayed with Wilson...until now! Despite what I've been told, there is something about the Revels that makes me just enjoy listening to music. My point is to help everyone and tell all of you to just trust your own ears. Forget price! I submit the other system does somethings better; however I enjoy music more on the modest system and now I truly understand what this hobby is all about. It's not the price we pay for equipment, but the music! How stupid have I been...for the first time I'm listening to music and not the equipment!
Hopefully new people to this hobby learn your lesson early in their experience, not only will they save more money to buy more media, but the joy will come earlier.
Is it possible that the room the new system is in is better? I've heard very modest systems in very good rooms sound remarkable. I've also heard the opposite more times than you can imagine.
You're not stupid Ricred1, I've been "into it" for 25 years, no expert, just a learning experience.

A friend just listened to an all NAD setup with some average Totem floor standers and entry level AQ cabling, nothing fancy.

After the audition, the guy told my friend (in a nice way, still a little slap in the face) that he thought his system was more musically involving (sounded better, yes)

My friend humbly agreed and left shaking his head, called me on the phone, we agreed that not all high-end equipment is worth the asking price, only sometimes.

Since then, we talk about system matching and good music, he's changing out some equipment as I write this.

When a friend asks your opinion about their labor of love, how do you tell them politely without insulting, or ticking them off?
There's no way other than to be candid when giving your opinion, when asked.
I've been told by someone I trust that my system had too much high end energy and he was right. It just took someone else's ears to set me straight. For a moment, it stung, but both of them said the same thing and recommended some fixes and before you knew it, we were on to solving the problem. In fact, it led to what I have now and I'm all the better for it.

As to Ricred1's point, I concur and wish that I could have gotten what I now have at the start of this and saved a bunch of money. But then it wouldn't have been a hobby, just a wise and rewarding purchase. :-)

We should all be so lucky.

All the best,
I learned a while back when I thought I wanted the most accurate/detailed system (because I wanted to hear it if it was there). Turns out I spent more time listening to individual instruments and vocals saying wow that guitar/horn/drum etc sounds so real. With that I didn't hear the music. Only single instruments/vocals. Very sterile sounding when adding the music. No pRat. So I have to agree 100% with the title to this thread - USE YOUR EARS!! Decide if that is what I could listen to for a lifetime.

I am way to insecure to trust my own judgement. I need the goners to confirm my listening experiences as well as affirm my choices.

But thanks for expressing your opinion.
"It's not the price we pay for equipment, it's the music!" Amen to that. It seems I've increasingly seen that idea come home to roost time and again in my 40 years in this hobby. It's now beginning to strike me as fairly commonplace that people can enter into the fray at some moderate level of expenditure and, at some point after a while, can begin to feel that urge to do something more - that they feel like they're missing something, but they're not sure what. And I think for most of us it seems like it would then be the most natural assumption in the world to make from there - that, having already spent "X" amount, it would then almost certainly sound better if you spent more, which as we all know, can so often be quite true. But, surprisingly enough, just as often in this hobby you can actually spend less and wind up with more...! It may take time enough for us to realize that truth, but, in the end, I sometimes wonder if those of us who do, just may be the luckiest of all. I do believe it's likely worth running the risk of offending a friend, to be able to change their way of looking at things, sometimes. There is always what we are willing to settle for as 'satisfying' and our own level of complacency, as well...and (just like Nonoise and Rx8man say) sometimes a jolt to all that can be a good thing...! Use your own ears, indeed.
"and have owned everything from Klipsch to Wilson Audio"

You make it sound as though one is chopped liver and the other is prime rib.

I have heard a few Wilson speakers and owned one. There are Klipsch models I would take over some Wilsons on any given day.

I'm glad you're happy!

Imagine if for a whole year every meal you had was at a Michelin 2 or 3 star restaurant. The food (and wine) would be truly amazing! But how far into the year would you start having cravings for meatloaf and gravy soaked mashed potatoes served with beer?

There's comfort food and there's comfort audio. Knowing what you really like is the key to long term satisfaction.

"You make it sound as though one is chopped liver and the other is prime rib." No, I made the statement to say, I've owned different types of dynamic speakers, horn vs cone. I could have said, I've owned DeVore, Mirage, B&W, Artemis EOS, Wilson Sophia 2s, 3s, and Audio Physics, and a couple more. My point was I've owned many speakers and for some reason one of the least expensive speakers has provided the most joy.


I moved them to the same room.
When a friend asks your opinion about their labor of love, how do you tell them politely without insulting, or ticking them off?
Excellent question and one that requires knowing your friend and having the emotional intelligence to find a way to express that in a positive manner that he/she will respond to in a positive manner. In order to do that, I simply ask my wife ;-) Women, in general, are often better at that kind of task (as long as it's not their husband...rim shot!) No really, they are. After 40 years, some of her knowledge and skill in that area are beginning to rub off on me.

There is a general trend here that I see. Some people (like me) are what I call gestalt listeners. They don't focus on the individual elements but rather the overall result in terms of the way that they respond to it. I know I can tell you which (insert component or system here) I enjoy more, but it's often hard for me to nail it down as to why. Some people are very analytical listeners or perhaps what I would call splitters (whereas I would consider myself a lumper). They can easily tease out the individual elements that make them prefer one sound over another. Taken further, they may not be able to enjoy something if one individual element to which they are sensitive is not exactly to their liking.

Whatever floats your boat. And maybe that is the way to approach the question of making constructive comments to a friend. Ask them what they particularly like about component X or system Y, agree w that, and then discuss the things that are important to you that you might find a little lacking.
Getting good sound need not be particularly hard nor costly these days. There is still a lot of junk out there but good sound is just not as hard to come by these days. The key is to know what you like when you hear it and have realistic expectations. Perfect sound always is not realistic. Good sound most of the time is. Throwing money at the problem alone is not a good strategy.
Ricred1 ..., I agree 100% with your comments. And so do many others.

Here's a "sanitized" version of an e-mail I sent last summer to a reviewer with whom I have occasionally traded messages over the years. The e-mail describes my experience comparing a Paradigm limited edition speaker (call it the "S5") to another very popular brand speaker, so-called Brand X. The S5 is very similar to my Paradigm S8s (v3).

I am reluctant to mention the name of the other brand because I am not interested in starting a speaker war. Just telling about my experience and expressing my personal opinion. And yes ... I was very surprised. OK, here's the message:

"[A] friend in the business had taken in trade an ARC VS-115 amp. He also had a pair of [Brand X speakers] and Paradigm Anniversary S5s on the floor. He called me to come over and compare the two using the VS-115 (my [former] amp). For some strange reason, [Brand X] sounded dead. Imaging and soundstage were flat compared to my S8s. Perhaps it was a matter of cabling or room placement. Don't know. I was surprised. I checked the amp's connections and even checked the bias on the tubes to make sure all the tubes were working. Nothing seemed out of order.

"Was getting ready to leave. My friend offered to plug the S5s into the VS-115. Wow!!!! Major big time difference. They sounded like my S8s. Imaging and soundstage was spectacular. In fairness to [Brand X], I thought they had slightly better bass -- a tad tighter and more 'honest' for lack of a better word. But all in all, I walked out thinking the S5s cleaned up the floor with [Brand X]. Of course this is all my opinion."

FWIW, the reviewer who is very familiar with the Paradigms and Brand X shared a similar opinion. Btw, Brand X was a more expensive speaker.

Just saying.

I have discussed this thought for many years after hearing a friend of mine who is not an audiophile at all system. He basically purchased most of his components forma garage sale total cost was $27.00 Something like Cambridge sound CDP for $5.00, Peraux (spelling) power amp 200 wpc $10, plastic ICs, cheap bookshelf speakers with powered sub $13, etc. and it sounded so involving I was stunned. As long as you are happy, then that sounds good to me.

Happy Listening.
This entire discussion is an affront to the audio elite who selflessly share their hallowed science backed opinions while buttoning their shirts up to their scrawny, unshaved necks when feverishly blogging away to the great unwashed about cryoed wall plugs and 2 inch single driver speakers powered by 3 watt hand made amps costing 40 thousand bucks built by a hermit in Kobe.
Sorry Wolf. Right you are. Maybe I should either dump my ARC gear and (1) pick up some Radio Shack stuff, or (2) pick up some $100K gear, financed by me selling my house. Uuuhmmm. Decisions, ... decisions.

Btw, where does that hermit live??
Interesting thread.

My personal preference has been changing from a very detailed (cold, analytical?) sound to a more musical sound. It's interesting how some systems thread the music together and let you hear the music, the nuances, and the pace, while others let you hear all the imperfections of a recording and are hyper detailed yet the music sounds disjointed and uninvolving.

I think my assesment of components within my system will now be strongly based on how I feel while listening to music. Is it involving? Does it draw me in? Does my mind constantly wander onto something else other than the music? If it does, how quickly will the music draw me back in and gain my attention?

My assesments of components before were based more upon the micro details, bass extension, brightness or harshness of the highs, blackness of the background, imaging, etc. Sure, all of the aforementioned is important, but did you notice how many times I mentioned "Music" in this paragraph vs. the previous one?

I used to listen more to my equipment but now I prefer to listen to the music.
I think my assesment of components within my system will now be strongly based on how I feel while listening to music. Is it involving? Does it draw me in? Does my mind constantly wander onto something else other than the music? If it does, how quickly will the music draw me back in and gain my attention?
"By jove I think he's got it" (obscure reference to broadway musical popular and movie popular mid last century)!!!! Be careful B Limo, you are now well on our way to tubes, tubes, and more tubes. We're gonna get ya ;-)

Wolf- Please, please, tell me that the hermit is not a vegetarian. It'd be a shame for him not to be addicted to $50 Kobe-burgers!!!
I thought great beef, not audio, came from Kobe. Could it be that whatever they put in the beef made it's way down to the audio chain? (I forget just where they plant it)

Also, if I undue the top button, will the blood flow increase to my skull, preventing me from almost passing out every time I bend over to put in another CD?

You've said it better than I did, "I think my assesment of components within my system will now be strongly based on how I feel while listening to music. Is it involving? Does it draw me in? Does my mind constantly wander onto something else other than the music? If it does, how quickly will the music draw me back in and gain my attention?" I never listened to music as much as I do now. I didn't realize it, but my prior system made me exhausted. I've listened today for over 3 hours and I don't want to turn it off.

I will listened to Revel Studio 2s to see if there is a significant improvement, while maintaining my enjoyment. I know the Salons are better, but I've set a limit on how much I will spend and the Studio 2s are within my budget. I finally realize I don't need to have the "best"...what ever that means!
Well, unless you live in a large city and can have several dealers bring over equipment and set it up so that you can listen and make your choices, which you will pay full retail for, we have to put our systems together by trial and error, buying and selling. So we read and listen to what we can, then buy and try.

You may get lucky and reach nirvana on your first, inexpensive system or you may have to spend many years and many $ until your system causes those endorphin rushes. Some of us never get there.

I agree though, if your system sounds great to you, sit back and enjoy it and forget about upgrading for a while.
Such a refreshing thread it is so easy to miss the point that it is the enjoyment of the music that comes first.

How you choose to listen to it and on what is entirely up too you.
As long as you enjoy it the opinions of others are meaningless.
I have come to conclusion that their is no such thing as the Holy Grail of audio it is all subjective and personal.

I get just as much enjoyment out of a scrounged up system that cost me less than $500 to put together. As I do with the one that cost me +$15,000.
Truth be told I enjoy the $500 one more because I just listen to the music and do not try and pull it apart and analyse it.

After all the expensive one cost so much it has to be perfect and better, what ever that may mean.
It is all in the mind you know!
The only reliable metric for determining good sound is enjoyment, which cannot be quantified in any specifications or any other mathematical or scientific terms.

It's the "human factor" that cannot be quantified, at least so far.