What makes a system compelling?

I have experienced some systems that on face value have detail, and dynamics, and great bass, etc. etc., yet are just plain boring to listen to. What are the qualities that keep you planted in the sweet spot pulling out one disc after another. Can this be identified during demos, or does it take time, living with a system to see if it works?
I know that enough beer makes my system pretty compelling. In fact, here soon i will be heading home to some Coors and Nick Cave. ;)

I wonder if there is a point where the system gets too accurate. Kinda like a photograph. A good photo is very detailed and accurate and can be very pleasing, but i think alot of the time a well done painting is more interesting and striking.

Maybe that is why the tubefanatics like thier distorted-ass tubes over the technically superior solid state gear, cause it makes the music more interesting. Maybe they are not as accurate, but they paint a beautiful sonic picture.

Now, im on my way to Mexico before the tub-fans get a look at this thread and decide to storm my house with pitchforks and torches!

seriously tho,
ive really been toying with the idea of getting a small tube-setup in the future for a bedroom system. My roomate has a 59 Les Paul with a tube headamp, and it sounds pretty sweet. ;)

now yer thinking.... did slappy insult tubes? or did he give them praise?
things that make you go "hmmm"

I've never heard this level of sonics in any store's demo listening rooms. But then again, when you think about it, the sound you describe is rarely heard anywhere. Period.

Far and away, the biggest factor (yes everything is a factor) toward achieving this level is the amplifier. If one fails at that purchase, they are doomed to mediocre sonics at best.

Get the amplifier part right, and you're out the starting gate in the right direction and everything else toward achieving that level of sonics becomes easier and easier but still takes time. Get it wrong and there's no hope.

And with my limited experience, I am of the opinion that finding an amplifier that exemplifies sonic superiority top to bottom, etc., etc., is truly like finding a needle in a haystack.

Amps of this caliber are rare but they do exist, but one has to know what they are looking for. Or at least recognize it when they hear it.

The next factor toward achieving this level is proper line-conditioning and addressing the AC electrical. I say proper line-conditioning because in my limited experience and research, this too is like finding a needle in a haystack.

-IMO (of course)
I think it is the emotional impact. To me, a great system has you tapping your foot, fingers, etc, and can even bring you to your feet clapping at the end! That's what does it for me - feeling the rhythm and pulse of the music. Technically, a system doesn't have to be expensive, but it does have to do several things right - synergy is the key. I have to agree with Stehno that good power conditioning is crucial to achieving this, because without it it's difficult to hear the subtle energy changes that give music its impact - IMHO.
It takes time and experimentation. After tons of gear both tube and solid state, I must say ARC tube gear sounds most musical...especially the new more inexpensive stuff I.E...VS110 and SP16L. when combined with let's say a Sony ES SACD player and good cables you can have a dream system worth drooling over!!
Compelling is the unearthing of sonic memories that elicited strong emotional responses. It does take time to identify such a system. Ask the salesman at the shop with the best systems. He will tell you what he listens to when the customers are gone. This is likely the path to nirvana. It was for me.
Music reproduction systems are neither boring or exciting, they are simply tools used to arrive at a musical satisfying end. A system can only detract from the musical performance. Those that detract the least are the best. Does a Formula 1 driver really think his new tires are compelling or are they just raw materials that will help him win the race?
a magic midrange. imo tubes yield that better than solidstate. you need to able able to connect with the music. midrange, transparent,rhythm, PRaT, dynamics, etc. bass slam and detail extraction alone will not get you there.
In one word Naim!

Quite simply a top of the line Naim olive series 52 pre, CDSII cd player (a huge factor), 250 amp with high quality full range speakers. You'll feel the depth, timing, bass, dimension, rythm, and articulation immediatly...In the store or at home...very engaging! and you won't need no stinkin subwoofer either.
The answer lies between a person's ears, and in their heart and soul!

For each of us, it is a different thing. Some want excitement, some want liquidity. Some want bass, some want treble, and others want midrange. The answer is reflected in the variety of systems that we all have here. If there was a simple cookbook answer, Pete's speakers, with John's amplifier and preamplifier, with the ABC turntable, a big number of people here would own that system. But no, we use solid state and tubes, electrostatics and dynamics, vinyl and CD.

Just like the famous Stereophile cover with the Krell and the Cary amplifiers which stated, "If one of these amplifiers is right, the other must be wrong." Not true, otherwise one of those companies would no longer be in business. There are enough proponents of each to keep both companies not only viable, but thriving.
Slappy is so silly...ya gotta love him! I'm not sure, but I think he knows my gear has included a who's who list of the top brands both tube and solid state. That being said, tubes done well sound completely natural, dynamic and palpable with deep bass and extended highs. Anyone who keeps up with the industry and or knows a musician or two will tell ya...tubes make music!!
IMHO, much of the _magic_ in a _magical_ system is due to accurate retrieval and accurate reproduction of minute low-level details that are frequently obscured with lower resolution systems.

This is frequently accomplished more cheaply ane easily thru lower power tubes matched with high efficiency speakers - hence tbe current revival of SET and horns.

I don't mean to say it cannot be done well with other methods, and I'm not saying it's cheap if done where you frequently get goosebumps - I am saying it's a good bit less expensive _big grin_

As to slappy's "distorted ass-tubes" comment _grin_, hey Slappy, you either think maybe you're measuring the wrong things? _big grin_ IMHO most measurements are little more than marketing tools.

Caveat - when I grew up, if you listened to reproduced music, you were listening to tubes, SS wasn't on the market.

Tubes sound "right" to me. If digital or whatever eventually sounds "righter", I'll go digital or whatever _grin_
I am inclined to believe it is a fleeting happening. I have frequently had it on the introduction of something new, but I think you become accustomed to it quickly and are less impressed the next night. Unfortunately often you might be impressed only to change back and think you were crazy to think it was an improvement. The real question is to avoid retrogressing.

I think I recall years ago having such a compelling experience, but I am certain that my system now is far superior. This would suggest that I could find Rectolinear IIIs compelling, so it need not be after much equipment and experience.
I agree with Holzhauer, I think it goes back to what kind of sound I grew up with expecting music to sound like. I go back to the days of smoking pot and drinking until I pass out, listening to a Marantz receiver and large Advents, and of course vinyl. I have a expectation in my head as to what I am looking for my system to sound like. I think we all do.
The big problem is finding that sound.
I am on my third step in the process and I might be getting close. But I think I still have a way to go. I should just buy a pair of large Advents and a Marantz receiver and call it done. But what fun would that be?
It took me years of costly experimentation with both tubes and ss before I settled in on the new ARC stuff (which sounds more like solid state on the extremes but retains gobs of tube magic in the mids and how the images are portrayed..full, round with 3-D action). I have experienced what tbg has many times over up until now. I don't quite understand it but the synergy I have going hits the mark for me...not completely realistic, but better than most seats at the kimmel center in Philadelphia!
In my case my system becomes most compelling when I listening to a recording I would usually have little interest in. I know that sounds stupid, but it is true. It is then I am most conscious of listening to the effect my system has had on a recording. Often I find I will like the sound of these recordings even as I find little of merit in the actual content. It arrives for me as a sort evaluative opportunity. Even then, I would not go as far as saying that I will necessarily percieve this as an improvement in sound quality. There has been a change, and I hear it and think about it. There have been occations- so many occations, when I have heard a recording that I have consistantly enjoyed but could not make out the vocals or instruments because it all became confused in the mix. I could not capture it. When my system has suceeded in untangling this for me I am impressed and I am thankful.This music becomes all the more to me, and I get this much more of my music collection back. I get to have this from time to time- clarity, and I value it and the means by which I got it.
A system becomes compelling for me when I no longer focus on what its is doing to the music that is being played on it and I become one with the music.