We are buying and reviewing gear all wrong

So let's assume that cables, power conditioners and electronics all contribute noticeably to the sounds we hear.

In that case, maybe the idea of buying individual gear, reviewing individual gear, etc. is all messed up.
We should review entire systems, and buy entire systems.

This idea that we constantly shuffle interconnects, speaker and power cords for all our lives is messed up.

We shouldn't be looking at audio stores or reviewers as recommending gear, but themes. Styles. Entire collections all at once.
You paying, erik. A lot.
Also, this kind of screams for integrateds and all-in-one solutions
Or evaluate gear without all the tweaks, based on good set up and whatever is necessary to deal w/ room acoustics. 
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Active speakers is not a very good idea - amps don't exactly like vibration. Besides, you cannot use other amps. This is not audiophile approach. Integrated is not quite an audiophile approach either, with maybe a few very best qualify, maybe.
Eric--I somewhat already follow this concept as do others. When I go to an audio show I pay close attention to the entire "system" that is being presented. If you hear a system you love, and you can afford it, then it doesn't make a lot of sense, to me anyway, to vary from the formula presented. But, what usually happens is the entire system is financially beyond reach--so it is acquired over time and during that time variations on the "presented system" are experienced in one's home. Now, the listener is faced with a unique combination providing a sound quality that the listener didn't hear at the show (or the showroom). Is it preferential to what the listener previously heard? Ah, this is what makes the audiophile world go round and round. 
Oh, and I apologize for mispelling "Erik."
B&O. Part success; part failure.  
Hi Eric,

Eric S says> So let's assume that cables, power conditioners and electronics all contribute noticeably to the sounds we hear.

In that case, maybe the idea of buying individual gear, reviewing individual gear, etc. is all messed up.
We should review entire systems, and buy entire systems.

blindjim > oh but were it that simple.

obviously there is something to be said for ‘turn key’ outfits.to be sure. someone has already pieced together the rig so it presents its best face on demo.


the missing factors then would be the room it will be transported to, and the funds needed to consumate the deal.

then too, is that shooting match exactly what you want, or is it merely intriguing at the onset?

IMO it should be obvious, money, or better said, its lack, is why we string together things in the fashion that we do.

that and of course, ‘ego’.

lastly, the joy of a thing is in its acquisition and construction. thru the successes and failures we gain experience.

C.S. Lewis on experience….
Experience, that most brutal of teachers. but you learn. My God, do you learn!

I’ve tried to duplicate or at least ‘emmulate’ the sound of a rig at a dealership I simply could not afford to buy outright. but the results never materialized perfectly, at least at the onset.

then of course the chase was on….

I feel in the end I was on par with it or perhaps in some cases better off.

at least the resulting rig was one I looked forward to turning on, so that’s a good thing I’m sure.

on the rig I could not afford that haunting first listeningh event still rumbles about way back in there somewhere.

on the other hand, the voice of the rig I put together trying to replicate that memorable outfit, is nearly silent now.

as for wires….
one can only buy, try, and keep or replace, then being conssitent with the audio nervosa affliction, repeat.

on that point alone I heard recently gobs of rigs whose wire looms cost as much as new luxury cars. one or two were impressive for sure. but there were others whose looms were tilted far more towards the affordable side, and these rigs were as impressive, and on a few accounts on par with or even much better sounding.

at the time of these demos I did not know exactly whose wires, or which ones were in play. I’ve found out since however by asking the reps or makers presenting at the time.

many moons ago it was often said here, “everything makes a difference in an audio system”.

I think it still does.

will we, or can we pay for that difference, is the ongoing ‘brutal’ truth.Enter your text ...
ATC is quite successful with implementing active speaker designs. 

Only problem with active speakers is that they are incompatible with inverting preamps. If one cares about absolute polarity or phase, be sure the preamp’s signal phase can be switched before the outputs (or the speaker connections flipped). 
It's a good idea for those just starting out.I remember an article in one of the magazines where several reviewers recommended entire systems in low,medium,and high costs.Cables were included.
High End brands offering complete systems have included QUAD, Linn, Naim, Acoustic Research, and McIntosh. Hmm, the first three from the UK, where system-building has always been taken seriously.
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Assembling good systems is what being a hi-fi retailer is all about. At least it used to be.
The last two posts pretty much nailed it. I reiterate, assembling a good system from different manufacturers is what makes this hobby so much fun. Buying everything from one manufacturer is virtually impossible and often offer compromises....you’re buying into their ‘house’ sound which may or may not be the best value for the money.

Erik, aren’t you a big proponent of DIY cables, speakers and promoter of Parts Connexion? I sense some kind of hidden agenda against B&M stores selling brand name HiFi components.

Tech HiFi, Tweeter, Etc. and a few other stereo stores in the Boston area used to offer deals on pre-assembled systems. In 1973, I bought, with a little help from my parents, one of Tech HiFi’s $199 systems comprising the house branded TDC 1 sealed speakers, a ~6 wpc Cambridge Audio receiver and Garrard turntable with "magnetic cartridge!" IC’s and a couple of 6 ft strands of zip cord were also included.

It sounded pretty good for my small bedroom and for the first time I was no longer chewing up my records with a crappy flip-style Astatic piezo cartridge. A year later I bought a Pioneer turntable from a local dealer that greatly improved vinyl playback. That system lasted me from spring of sophomore year in high school until I graduated from college six years later. I later gave it away to friends as I was able to afford a better rig.

Systems are what we listen to, but how we get there is the path of individuality and experimentation, and I don’t think you’re going to change that. Either that or it’s Bose Wave Radio.

At various times in the odyssey I've gravitated to several components from a single manufacturer(first BAT and more recently Pass), but this pretty much ceased after discovering that almost anything can be improved or successfully re-voiced with DIY modifications.  As to cables: once the speakers and electronics have been brought up to a high level, a carefully researched DIY recipe with pure annealed silver wire and branded terminations is the finishing touch.  My greatest regret in the hobby is an expensive drawer full of commercial cable purchases.

I can't think of a single manufacturer with whom I would buy into the construct of single-sourcing purchasing-- including Linn, ATC, and Naim. 

@dgarretson , 

"My greatest regret in the hobby is an expensive drawer full of commercial cable purchases."

"I can't think of a single manufacturer with whom I would buy into the construct of single-sourcing purchasing-- including Linn, ATC, and Naim."

I'm with you on both statements. I'd throw in Rega too regarding the latter as I fear they've lost the way a little with their RX speaker line. 

I guess it's difficult but if anyone can crack it in the future it will be ATC. Their loudspeakers (especially actives) have been amongst the most highly regarded for decades.

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@cd318 I’d like to believe in ATC as a full-service supplier, were it not for a dealer demo I heard several years ago with ATC speakers fed by an ATC preamp. The combination was opaque and sterile, whether owing to the speakers or the preamp I know not. Maybe they are outside their depth in the preamp space. There are few if any manufacturers that can cover all bases.

02-19-2019 7:40am - "Assembling good systems is what being a hi-fi retailer is all about. At least it used to be." bingo!
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I owned a all MBL System and was incredibly good ,when I owned a Audio store . I could never afford to pay even close to retail 
as a regular consumer . There are very few companies who 
make Loudspeakers as well as electronics and cables . If you have the bucks go for it all in one shot, otherwise you just save and upgrade as you can afford it.
Home theater stores are closer to offering "package" audio systems, and many new-home buyers are excited about having every room wired with wall or ceiling speakers.  If that's not enough, you could also hire a life coach and an interior decorator.  Why make all the hard decisions?  
The joy is about liking to listen.  And liking to listen to other systems.  Yet I would be bummed if I could not A/B test speakers or amplifiers every now and then and revert back if I wasn't super-happy with an upgrade and talk to someone about it.  Hence the desire to tweak and yet bleed money for the price of something unachievable at any cost.

I always admired those focused on the curation of the media and the particular performance.  Yet enter digital.  Fights now ensue over which $100K DAC makes a 4TB library of 'stuff' sound better and in what resampled format without mention or knowledge of when recorded, how many recordings are known and their scarcity.

To me, an audiophile takes as much time preparing to listen (and share) as they do listening.  Some claim it's about the music and being all about social is ruining today's music.  As I see it, without social, you are unwilling to give another voice or taste a listen.  If you have an integrated system that sounds great to you, and you are really exuberant about how great it is rather than what it cost, I will listen and many others will too.
Bryston offers complete systems.  Excellent quality audio equipment and backed up with a twenty year warranty on most of their line.  Yup !  Twenty years and it doesn't matter who owns it as long as it goes back to them in the original shipping box. That alone separates the men from … well from anyone else in the audio business.  
Designing speakers is different, more art than in designing electronics, and different arts require different talents.
Gryphon also makes everything except turntables. If you like this kind of sound and have the funds - go for it. Gryphon or MBL ? Hmm, probably neither for me, I view speakers as both devices and musical instruments, but electronics and cd player - Gryphon.
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Agree with @bdp2, a good dealer should have done his homework and will be offering a system that is synergistic.
Sure, but that's not for audiophiles. Audiophiles might ask for an advice but they want to be able to assemble their systems by themselves. Which in this dealer's reality would mostly involve moving boxes, cables and speakers. Real audiophiles are rarely best customers except perhaps for a handful of boutique dealers. There used to be one - HI-Fi Farm in Virginia selling very esoteric pieces. High Water Sound in Manhattan maybe.
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Well, adding a single component to an already existing system is also a service offered by a hi-fi-retailer. In that case, the consumer would likely be the instigator, the retailer providing guidance and advice and potentially a loaner piece for the client/customer to take home to audition in his system. The problem with that is that many consumers have no such local retailer that provides that kind of service.

But now we are back to the issue and premise of this posting! It is a fortunate consumer who has a relationship with a hi-fi-retailer possessing enough integrity to resist a short-term sale in the interest of a maintaining a long-term relationship with a repeat customer.

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I've been doing complete systems for a lot of years now, it's a nice niche. For one, you don't have to travel the same road as many HEA companies do. They always are dependent on other designers to pull them through. I don't have to mess with that. The other thing that is nice is the relationship you get to build with listeners.

Once somebody starts with "The Method of Tuning" and it becomes second nature to them, they never have to return to HEA's revolving door. They can stay a collector if they choose but it's no longer necessary, to get the sound they want.

Another nice thing about Tuning is how inexpensive it is. Most Tunable systems out there cost less than a typical HEA amplifier. If the listener does want to go ultimate system they go with The Tunable Room. With The Tunable Room you're literally sitting inside of a large musical instrument.

Michael Green 

I'm also glad that this forum, and others, are realizing the power is now in the listeners hands. With Tuning for example, I was told by the magazines why they didn't want to go any further promoting my method back in the late 90's (which you've been hearing me talk about). It was simply that they wanted to sell boxes not systems and certainly not methods. Every magazine that reviewed me told me that Tuning was the future after they experienced The Tunable Room and system, but there was no way they were going to pull that trigger, no way.

Now I'm getting tons of emails with people testing the waters. I try to give them simple things to do so they can build their confidence in Tuning. Once it clicks it's like watching a rebirth. It's one of those "of course" moments. And the nice part for me is, Tuning doesn't fail. If someone applies the Method of Tuning they "will" get the sound they want. It's funny, almost weird, it has taking so long for HEA to catch on that a volume control was not going to get them there.


I like many have moved in the direction of an all one system or at least all the same electronics. EACH time I did so something happened to that company!
imagine waking up one day to discover that your favorite brand of audio is closing up shop and your system is now worth 1/5 of it’s former value. Scary. I vowed to always keep my system diverse. Joe
I think one of the biggest problems when selecting speakers and electronic equipment is you are not able to listen to this gear in your home.  You spend $ thousands, get it home and it sounds harsh or simply does not sound anything like what you heard when they were demoed.  It would be nice to put a deposit down with an agreement to be able to return them to the dealer without being charged a restock fee or be pigeon holed into buying them.  Most of the retailers in Colorado work out of their homes and their rooms are less than ideal to represent the sound quality that is possible when listening to them at home.  I am surprised no one is talking about master setting speakers to tune speakers to a room.  Most audiophiles do not have a clue about how to set up their speakers at home after spending $ thousands in order to get their speakers in phase with their listening room.  Soundings in Denver is the only retailer in Denver who almost requires their customers to allow them to do a master set.  They also really feel adding the proper REL subwoofers to a systems is as important as the speakers themselves in order to create the most optimal sound stage.  You should stop buy their store and in just 30 minutes you will be convinced there is a better way to listen to 2 channel stereo.  He moved one of the speakers just a few inches from where they were marked on the floor and I suddenly heard the right and left speakers.  When he moved one of the speakers out of position, he also had to raise his voice in order for us to carry on a conversation.  Master setting totally eliminates the detection of left or right speakers.  The sound travels directly to you between the speakers and you can feel your shoulders relax and feel sound the way it is meant to be heard.  And, no I do not work for Soundings.

Here in the UK I would never purchase standmount or floorstanding speakers without the benefit of a home audition.  Also I would if possible get the assistance of the dealer to set the speakers up in my own room for the audition.  To buy a speaker without home audition for me is like buying clothes for myself blind without knowing my measurements or not trying them on in the shop and hoping to luck that the clothes will fit me at home.

Linn UK
Offer whole systems based on stereo or multi channel source and active speakers.
And the probably sell loads of them. Smart marketing with smart products. Great market. Indeed doubt many are found here. Erik proposed a different review and sales strategy. Isn’t this exactly what takes place at Hi-Fi shows? Aren’t they system demo’s. There’s Nagra teamed with Wilson’s etc. Magazine reviewers will struggle to reproduce these or similar experiences for their reviews. Oth John Darko often compares similar units in a specific category headphones or dacs and so on in one review for comparison. How is a package to be assembled for a reviewer, who will coordinate and ship the package?
The whole audiophile thing really is insane...like disturbingly nuts!!  It misses the whole point of the music and having fun.  I remember selling HiFi gear back in the early 80’s when you could get a whole system that sounded very engaging for $2-$3 grand.  Spent the rest of my life chasing shadows and wondering why I enjoyed music more back then compared to anytime since.  Why didn’t the audiophile approved gear simply communicate the emotion and fun of the music more readily?  Maybe that much maligned mid bass hump was actually a good thing...at least it sounded more like a real band playing.  Too much over dampening and flat frequency response angst ruined audio for me.  Live music is crazy dynamic and loud with energy you can feel...it is not flat or damped!

I understand your post but what I don't understand is all the different recommendations and advice that I read about here on Audiogon.  For example, I have heard some of the equipment that I see recommended such as for this price X brand is a no brainer, or I purchased X Brand and in my system it sounds fantastic, or I had that and this one sounds better.  IMO, there are too many people posting replies with advice or recommendations who simply do not have the experience to evaluate something.  I am very lucky as there are three audio clubs in my area so hearing different equipment not only in my system bit other peoples systems I think allows for a better evaluation and recommendation.  People will lend out a piece of gear no problem even very expensive gear.  Don't take me wrong as I value every opinion but  there has to be more to the opinion.  I guess the real question to me is how much experience does the person recommending here on Audiogon have.  I also build and modify components so I really am lucky to hear the potential of a component, and have it in my system to compare to other components for a IMO better evaluation.  Not that I am an expert so I invite people over for a play night and get multiple opinions.  It really becomes a fun evening.  A month back I had people over and we did a capacitor shootout.  Understanding how that impacts the sound was a great experience.  We all ordered the same capacitor to upgrade our amps and preamps!  But seriously, I do not want to come off as if I know better but I do find some peoples recommendations and opinions less experienced to make them.

Just sayin' don't crush me on this, I hope this is more helpful that not to many here that I have enjoyed reading posts from, etc.

Happy Listening.    

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BigKidz, sounds great but it also speaks to my post.  Why not have a couple brews, crank some tunes and enjoy...instead of obsessing over capacitors?  Devils advocate here of course, but kinda my point!

I know it is not like me; but I agree. Having attended a lot of RMAF shows, my shop was in Denver, I will tell you this, when reviewers go into rooms they are just there to hear either  the speakers or the electronics specifically. They make small mention of seller, in my case a retail shop and would just focus on manufactures. When you look at the show reports it is common to have one reviewer listen to electronics over or under 10K or speakers over or under 30K etc. All the attention is on the manufactures. Consumers are left to figure it out..
we all strive for a certain sound.the speakers and room are the final piece of the equation.took me years to find what pleased me and im over the moon.love chilling with a frostie after work, unwinding and enjoying every note.
the speakers were the most important part of the equation.

skipskip -

Right On! I agree with  your logic and post.

Happy Listening!

Different hobbies exist inside of this great lifestyle. We all have our own hobby inside of the hobbies. I feel that there has always been plenty to go around in which ever specific part of the music lifestyle we choose to explore. From pushing a button to getting our ears dirty, it's all pretty darn cool.


"@dave_b, The whole audiophile thing really is insane...like disturbingly nuts!! It misses the whole point of the music and having fun. I remember selling HiFi gear back in the early 80’s when you could get a whole system that sounded very engaging for $2-$3 grand. Spent the rest of my life chasing shadows and wondering why I enjoyed music more back then compared to anytime since. Why didn’t the audiophile approved gear simply communicate the emotion and fun of the music more readily? Maybe that much maligned mid bass hump was actually a good thing...at least it sounded more like a real band playing. Too much over dampening and flat frequency response angst ruined audio for me. Live music is crazy dynamic and loud with energy you can feel...it is not flat or damped!"

There’s more than a few of us asking similar questions.

Who exactly are all these people relentlessly whispering (sometimes shouting) empty promises that lead nowhere in our ears?

Why do they do it?

What do they hope to gain?