Where ARE you located? I've wondered what it would be like to be in, say, Montana, or N. Dakota. Then again, for all I know there are thriving pockets of underground activity in unlikely places!
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I hate to say but the snobbery part of this hobby goes back along time. I remember when I went Into my first audio store at 15 years old and they would not give me the time of day.
Flashback 20 years later and it was about the same thing. I put most of my current system together on Audiogon buying mostly used. The few new pieces I have bought were from dealers that didn't have an attitude. There are times I want to audition a new piece of gear but I just don't want to hassle with the stores. I do enjoy going to the audio shows and I find them a lot less snobby.
Unfortunately the the snobbery part of this hobby will never go away. I just guess it's part of the territory. I can tell you Audiogon is a lot less elitist than some of the other sites.
In OPs case the Internet and sites like this are the solution.
There are many well intending members here that will give straight unbiased answers to specific questions. Figure out who you trust and consider what they say. Ask specific questions and once you get to a point where things appear to make sense perhaps give something new a try.
I recommend focusing on tweaking and optimizing whatever you have this way first before changing a thing. Many have gear capable of really good results already but perhaps have not been able to get things set up optimally to-date.
Once you know what what you have can do, then you are in a good position to make changes as needed.
Only you can hear your system and determine whether it floats your boat or not. In the end that's all that matters. There is no other way.
If interested try to attend live concerts and performances and use that info to help learn what things really sound like in different venues, amplified versus acoustic, listening from different locations/seats, etc., if that matters to you. It may not to many and that is fine. Only you know what matters to you. Don't let extremist audiophiles take you somewhere that perhaps you are not interested in being.
I live in a rural area and celebrate the beauty and total silence. I have gotten know people on Audiogon and once mutual respect and rapport is established, often first through Private Message and then by phone, one person has flown 1,000 miles to hear my system and I have traveled 6 hours by car hear another's. Also when I travel to a city, I often stop by stores of good reputation to hear systems. But most rewarding are the personal contacts which bring lively discussion and often exposure to music that I have never heard that at times becomes an essential part of my collection
Tost, me too.
I have bought various audio components previously unheard in recent years based on what I learn from sites like this and others and have yet to be disappointed. So it can work though in most cases probably reasonable to expect some hits and misses along the way. Just don’t overpay and buy and sell as needed and you will get there sooner rather than later.
Sorry guys, I've been "out of pocket" for a few days (having broken my ankle and surgery on it). I really appreciate the responses.
Here is some background on me: I live in rural Georgia so I'm a bit out in the boonies. Atlanta is the closest place to me with good equipment, but I think there is really only 1 high end retail shop. I'm open for good suggestions there.
It seems to me that good "high end" stereo shops have been disappearing since I was in college. I got into stereo in high school, early 70's scraping money together for Advent speakers.
Back then folks loved to turn other folks on to new and better equipment for the joy of the music that equipment could reproduce. Even when I didn't have much money the excitement was palatable. My Brother and I had a passion for music that we still share. He has a really interesting system. We still visit one another and listen to each other's recordings and set-up. It seems now dealers push certain products because they are so limited in their suppliers. It also seems to me that folks have gotten more strident in their positions regarding certain equipment.
A recent interaction that partially prompted the post was that I was shopping for tubes for my pre-amp and called a tube dealer for a recommendation for tubes (I was going to buy them from him after doing research here). First he criticized my pre-am as being hard on tubes and poorly designed, the he asked if I had noticed any microphony. I'll admit I'm not familiar with that word and so I told him I wasn't. His response "I don't have time to give lessons." My Brother and I have used tubes in amps and pre-amps for a long time (he still has some VTL amps and various tube components as do I). This pre-amp doesn't produce much (if any) noticeable hum/noise nor does it got through tubes quickly.
I've done the same as some of you for awhile. I've had speakers that likely none of you have heard (Hartleys - surprising sound) and other well know brands. For instance, not too long ago I had a pair of used BW 802d's speakers and another brand of speakers in my listening room. I was doing A/B demos with my source equipment to determine which speakers worked best in my room with my stuff. My wife called the BW's "the alien speakers." In the process of the demo, I also traded out amps (all SS brands CJ, Bryson, McIntosh mono blocks) and pre-amps (tube vs SS) to determine what combination I liked best. The BW's I had heard before - the other speakers I bought sight and sound unseen. I have since sold most of that equipment (I tend to be a hoarder though).
Anyway that gives you where I'm coming from in this process. I may have rambled a bit - chalk that up to pain meds.
Thanks for the thoughtful responses, perhaps one day I can meet a few of you (as has happened).
I think I'm going to have to go to an electronics/stereo show sometime in the near future.
Thanks again folks.
There are two or three (or more) hifi stores in Atlanta. Buckhead area. Some have a lot of sqare footage devoted to home theater yet hifi is given plenty of listening room. The turn up in searches.
I am in rural Alabama and definitely feel your pain. What's puzzling is how most folks here love music yet are oblivious about hifi. My gf and her family are mystified by my love for this hobby.
Thank goodness for the internet. I enjoy your posts.
I have an audiophile friend that lives in Libby, MT. He is active in forums and email lists. Great guy. He attends electronics shows as part of his vacations and meets people who are in the forums and lists, spends time listening to equipment and meeting designers of top equipment. I don't think he worries about getting snubbed, just doesn't let that get under his skin.
There's some good advice here. I hadn't thought of going to shows. Partially because my wife thinks 1. This hobby is crazy 2. I spend too much on it as it is and 3. Travel to listen to equipment, you are really out of your gourd!
I'm not worried about being snubbed. I was making an observation about the hobby and the various personalities.
I also like the advice about figuring out folks I think have meaningful stuff to say.
Truth be known, the most significant thing I could do right now to improve my sound is to improve the acoustics of my listening room (structurally). I think average systems in a great room can beat really good systems in poor rooms.
I'll look at those around Atlanta (I'm going to call and see their setups first). I can't tell you how many times I've tracked down "dealers" (particularly "home theater dealers") only to find they they have no setups to hear true stereo systems. "We're a Wilson dealer, but we have no Wilson rooms. Vandersteen, yep we can order 'em, but you can't hear them. You idiot."
I would bet that HiFi Buys would be better ( I can remember a few shop parties with an early HiFi Buys franchisee friend of mine years ago at a nameless shop - there were quite a few systems sold after that little event).
There were a couple of smaller shops with esoteric equipment that have gone out of business in Atlanta. They had some good equipment/representatives (at one time I owned Meadowlark audio speakers from one of those guys and VTL amps).
It's amazing to me the margins on the equipment. While I like craftsmanship externally, I wish I knew the very best value per dollar for sound for every component at every price range. To hell with impression, just give me performance. I've got a CJ Priemer 18 LS 2 pre-amp, I like it, but I'd like to know what other pre-amp slays the bugger for the price it commands. SS or Tube would do. You guys have any suggestions?
Thanks again for all the responses. You guys are helpful. I hope to run into you in some gracious context to compare sound.