When is the golden age of high-end audio?

When is the golden age of high-end audio? When and where is the exaltation of music by the component and the component by the sound, the exaltation of buying and consumption through the sumptuary spending of high-end production? Whatever the subjugation of high-end audio to the management of capital (but this aspect of the question--that of the social and economic impact of high-end audio--always remains unresolved and fundamentally insoluble), high-end audio always had a more than subjugated function, it was a microphone held out to the universe of great music, great orchestras, great conductors, it was for a moment their glorious imaginary, that of a technical one, but an expanding one. But the universe of high-end audio is no longer this one: now it is a world that is both saturated and involuted. At some point, high-end audio lost both its triumphal imaginary and, from being in some sense a glorious microphone and playback device, it passed in some sense to the stage of mourning.
There is no longer a golden age of high-end audio: there is only its obscene and empty form. And high-end audio advertising and marketing is the illustration of this saturated and empty form.
Gone is the happy and displayed high-end component, now that it is suddenly like a man who has lost its shadow. Thus the high-end store these days closely resembles a funeral home--with the funereal luxury of the component buried, transparent in a black light, like a sarcophagus. Everything is sepulchral--white, bnlack, salmon, marble. Built like a tank--in deep, snobbish, dull black. Total absence of colors.
So, I ask you, when and where was the golden age of high-end audio. What individual component, in your opinion, is the testimony of a triumphant artistic-technical industry that was at its apogee? Why not save this golden age from decomposition? Later the historians and maybe our grandchildren will rediscover it, at the same time that they discover a culture that chose to bury it in order to definitively sell its soul to the devil, to bury its seduction and its artifices as if it were already consecrating them to another world.
You only live in one "age". The golden age is now, my friend, so make the best of now. This is not a message of hedonism, simply a suggestion to make the best of what you can. As an analogue fan who has to make the best of digital, I'd rather embrace the technology, and most importantly, the music that is available to me now than pine away for days gone by. And in terms of technology, and most importantly, music, there is always something to be excited about. What the equipment looks like will always be secondary to me. I am a cheapskate, as unsnobbish as it may be to admit it. I just want the closest emotional connection with the music; if that's basic black boxes that look kind of ugly, so be it. So if the high end has a choice of delivering the music from an ugly box, or ugly music from a pretty box, I'll take the former at the lowest price possible.
The 'component' you seek is the late 70s Luxman integrated you talked your friend into buying which was the perfect upgrade to his Pioneer receiver. You then sat around and rediscovered some of his CDs and vinyl together.

The Spica 50s you modified to replace a pair of Bose 301s for a sister and watched her excitement as the magic of everything better is experienced.

The time you set someone down to experience for their first time the fullness of tube gear with just the right vocalist and all the dicussion of 'old technology' disappears.

The difference made with lead shot and sand in a friend's Target stands without changing anything else.

Hearing a pair of 25 year old Rogers LS3/5As embarrass a new pair of $2000 speakers.

Experiencing digital more open and analog than it's ever been before and praying it will continue in that direction.

The Golden Age of audio is each time something of quality and not found at mass marketers is placed into a system which surprises and delights the owners. I find excitement in assembling a garage sale system equal to that of my forays into the esoteric and sometimes ridiculous world of audio.
Hdm, thanks for your modern, practical, democratic response in which the bargain hunter unites with the man of emotions. Like you, I try to "make the best of what I can" but, unlike you, I do not think that the present age is the golden age. Of course, some things nowadays are even far better than the past (i.e. phono cartridges, primarily, and vinyl re-pressings). However, returning to the golden age is something more than an empty, supplementary subterfuge ("pining away"). Of course, we cannot act as if nothing has happened since then (digital, OpAmp and integrated circuitry, etc.). Ugly black boxes are a symptom of an industry able to realize economies of scale in a mass market, or wanting to cut costs on cosmetics and are accordingly not a sign of the "sumptuary spending on production" I was referring to--actually, just the opposite But this forum is not an invitation to indulge in retro hallucination. I am still waiting for someone to name a component that for them embodies the golden age of high-end audio.
Slawney, to me the "golden age" is a figment of our imagination and nothing else. It is a state of mind, best described in terms of psychology. MY golden age was, when I innocently first stumbled on the high end and was carried away by and rejoiced in the way it made the music sing. That was the day of the tubed Quad electronics, their ELS, the ML1 and ML2, the SP6, the D-150 and D-79, JGH's Stereophile and the first stumbling steps of TAS. Dealers seemed friends then, who were just as exited about these products as our closely knit pack of afficionados. We were innocent then. The "Golden Age" is indeed an age of innocence. We slowly woke up to commercial realities, when we saw our dealers drive Porsches, Ferraris, BMW M1s and discovered that they loved money, rather than music. We woke up, when we saw TAS take advertising and the new salons full of jaded, rude and musically ill educated sales people. We woke up, when all the hype nearly drowned us in disgust. By and by, we became educated and knowledgeable. We picked and chose and the more intelligent, musically discriminate amongst us, usually avid concert goers, would settle on a system, which they would stick to for years, if not decades. The golden age turned to golden moments in the listening room and often those speakers, turntables and electronics, which had first opened the door to a deeper involvement in the musical experience became "classics", long cherished and held on to, because they stood for that golden age of innocence, which for many of us later sadly degenerated into "audiophila nervosa", a vicious circle of addict and purveyors, which Slawney, you so rightly seem to deplore!
Detlof, an exceptional, beautifully-written answer, in which your psychological acumen is reflected towards a whole generation's experience of leaving behind paradise! I want to cryogenically seal this post for future generations, satellite it into outer space for discovery by other life forms. Thanks.
Wow, Slawney, thanks, but kudos to you first, because you've brought up this inspiring thought in the first place.
Slawney, I have found that the "golden age" can be continually transmuted to the present, by seeking further knowledge and truth, and implementing those into your audio philosophy. While I once would have chosen some past era as the golden age, I now seek new vistas of dedicated DC battery bank power supplies, designing and building my own speaker systems, collaborating with other DIY innovators and small manufacturers, experimenting with new untried theories and lesser known products. In this way, I am not subjected to the sepulchre-like high-end emporiums that have succumbed to the rigor-mortis of modern commercial audio. I can soar like a bird to heights that are limited only by my own imagination and creativity. I subscribe to the notion that if you are not happy with what is out there, then make it yourself. Make it better and, sometimes, cheaper. You will broaden your horizons, expand your scope, deepen your insight and knowledge, and have great fun and personal satisfaction. I am never bored. I feel that there are always new avenues to the "emerald city" that are not choked off by crass commercialism and stagnant thought. My current audio system employs much of this philosophy. I have not entered one high-end store in assembling it. Much of it cannot even be purchased in any store, and some cannot be purchased at all, since I designed and made it(them). A labor of love that is founded in learning can never grow cold.

The golden age of high-end audio has occured intermittently and lies in the software. When great artists, song writers, arrangers, musicians, engineers and producers all care enough to approach a project with a "no compromise" attitude, it happens. There are examples that I own dating back to the early sixties that will truely blow away most of todays recordings. If I had broader musical tastes the golden age would date back further. If you would like to see just how far we "haven't come" with all the electronic gadgets we own you should find a vinyl copy of the first stereo recording ever made. I have the two volume set of Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, 1931-1932 by Bell Laboratories. You simply can't mentally imagine how great this is. I guess what I'm saying is that no matter how much money we spend on high-end gear if there is garbage in, there is garbage out. Tweaks and such would become less sought after if more artists copied the studio work ethic of Steely Dan. These comments are not meant to take away from the progress made in hardware development. It's just one man's opinion on why it is so hard to find the musical "Holy Grail".

Happy listening,
Damn, and I thought My Acoustic Zen Holograph cables would lead me to Valhalla.

If you guys keep on going down this line someone is going to break out into poetry.

Twl, I partially agree with you. Lately my golden age has been DIY. Not so much to save $$ as look at it from a different point of view. I've been reading from the old Audiocraft tube mags of 50 years ago. Makes me an electrical romantic I guess. But we fall into the same pits as the retail-commercial side. It is the age of $50 designer capacitors and there always seems to be a ludicrously priced tube of the moment. Guess it's not so much which path you take as how you walk it.

I still have my first Dynaco St-70 and I guess that was a Golden Age if not "The" Golden Age. It's comforting to think so anyway.

Nice post Detlof.

I remain,
It is now and has been for as long as I have been around.

The turntable is the component. Cartridge, arm & platform is the package I speak of.

Like a musical instrument it reproduces what it is fed, naturally. Unlike digital which changes the input and then only gives back what the numbers say, analogue reproduces the level that is in the play back linkage. The higher the resolution the better quality feedback is provided.

$50 cartridge (new), $50 80's used tt with a little tlc will produce a wonderful sound with a reasonably isolated platform. From that point shovel some $$$$$$ and the quality of performance increases no matter the downstream components.

Analogue lives and breathes just like a musical instrument.
I believe the sense of golden age has more to do with one's own innocence, enthusiasm, and lack of experience at an early stage of involvement than with the actual state of audio recording or componentry.
Yes, the field has become impossibly commercialized, but the truth is that virtually all phases of audio, from recording to electronics design, are technically much better now than 30-40 years ago. It's easy to see backwards with rosy glasses, and to forget that your less-well educated ears in those days forgave many more distortions, coloration, poor signal:noise ratio, crummy bass, and poor microphone placement than happens now.

As to Sayas's comments on analogue, my ears are too well developed not to hear the coloration and signal limitations that are par for analogue - its just one more variation on the limits in electronic reproduction of live music. Electronic reproduction will likely always fall short of the real event - the thing is to focus on music, find the electronics that best capture the aspects most important to you, and dispense with the endless search for the impossible! (But do accept new technology when it really represents an improvement, as multichannel someday will )

The Golden Age of audio begins when you find local friends & dealers who are patient, knowledgeable & open minded.
I think that this topic is very subjective without any one answer. For me, the golden age was in the late 50s with push pull tube amplifiers that allowed the change from horn to dynamnic speakers. I was just a boy when I built my first tube amp from a kit, you can talk about the merits of point to point soldering buy my first couple attempts was pure neighborhood soldering. I went on to build speakers(again from a kit, bought the enclosers and tried to match drivers and crossovers). It's not that the equipment was that good compared to the present but at that time it was such a large leap from low output amplifiers and colored horn loudspeakers.
I don't know which era is the Golden Age but I'm sure that we are at the "Darkest Age of Audio" right now ...............