Where are you at on the curve?...

I feel I started my journey or "quest" for audio satisfaction around 1990. Although I was "interested" in quality sound reproduction since the mid 70's. It's been over 10 years now, and I have learned so much, and soundwise have met or exceeded my desires and expectations.
My journey started when I could not understand why, when I played a CD, it sounded great, but would essentially "chase me out of the room". I could not fathom why I could not enjoy the CD for more than a few minutes, but with a record
I would want to sit, or stay and listen. A lot of the progress I made was pure luck, other things came from constant research, reading, listening and asking questions.
Before AudiogoN I would actually call some of the people selling equipment in Stereophile before they charged for classified's and ask them questions. Most any audiophile would want to tell me everything they knew, and that was a big help, as where can you go for education in this field?
Circuit City, Magnolia Hifi? Not. I did not know a single person in which to confide in my need for the things of which I read about in Stereophile. I am not asking what equipment one might have that has brought musical enjoyment or satisfaction. One can browse around here and get an idea of musically satisfying components. I feel on the "contentment" or "musical satisfaction" curve, I have reached somewhere in the pinnacle of the curve. Not to say that I will ever reach the pinnacle. Nor have I reached a "plataeu". I would love to get and try more things I can not afford. But, I have never been at this level of satisfaction before. I love this stuff, and will always be interested in it. Learning-wise, I will always be on the lower end of the climb, as I feel I am of average intelligence, and have much more to learn. So, how about you? Where are you at in your quest for "satisfaction"?
I remain,
I've been stiving for 35 years, and when you are very close to the top, it is wonderful!

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: I am keeping my speakers and gutting everything else. I hope that will move me up the curve, but I won't be near the top until I start my career, i.e. getting paid.
I keep telling myself I am nearing the end. But then I keep finding just one more thing I want. I suppose it's like the age old conundrum of walking halfway to the wall each time. Getting closer, but never reaching.

I will say that Audiogon has been a lifesaver in that I can at least make enough off my old gear to help pay for the new (actually used.)
New bigger room. New bigger ideas. Spiraling out of control?
couple more bank jobs and i might be closing in on it.
A long way from where I started and in a whole different place than I thought I would be....but loving it.
Man, I done missed the turn and went over da cliff.
I'm like, in the middle of a high speed maneuver with my foot firmly on the floor. The faster I go the better it feels but I have no idea how long I can keep at this pace before I lose control. It's been a fun ride but since I'm thinking about it rather than just going for it, I take that as a sign to pull on the shoulder before I tear up what I have.
I'm far enough along to not worry about the differences between the MkII and the just released MkIII. There's so much hype!
Thought I was 98% there, but I just came home from 6th row center at Symphony Hall to hear Andre Previn lead the BSO in Copland's Appalachian Spring and Shostakovich No. 6
The sheer acoustic power was unbelievable! I sit only 7-8' from my wonderful Verity Audio Parsifals in a nicely damped cozy livingroom, but I actually got palpitations tonight.
And BRIGHT! Those who keep insisting that REAL symphonic spectral tilt is warmer than audiophile-preferred wasn't sitting next to me tonight. OK, maybe in row x (or ss!) they heard something else...I know.
I stopped worrying about the sound about 5 years ago and started to focus on my collection. Best decision i ever made. But it took me quite a few years to come to the realization that, for me anyway, its all about the music, not stereo sound in the sweet spot.
Under current financial circumstances:
For my musical tastes, I'm close enough to smell the top, but I can't quite see it. The only change I forsee in my system is a speaker upgrade to the Soliloquy 6.5 from the Triangle Celius. When matched to the Cary 300 SEI, the Soliloquy nears perfection (to my ear). I will lurk until I find a local seller of a nice used set, and we will have the mission accomplished. If I were to fall into lottery-type winnings,this would be my bedroom system, and we'd have a whole new ballgame!
I've suffered the consequences of money induced pragmatism from the onset which were actually blessings in diguise. In the long run software is where it's at. Watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan really got the ball rolling but at 12 I could only afford the music and had to play my records on my parents system. Later, when it came to owning systems I could never afford the absolute best but found total enjoyment with what I owned and always got a thrill out of new music.

I've only made two hardware discoveries in my life that have given me audio religon. One was my original Linn LP12 and the other is active crossovers. Before the LP12 I was content with the music and after the LP12 I was still content with the music. The same holds true for the active crossovers.

I'm way too multi-dimensional to focus entirely on audio gear. There's always that new cylinder head for my hotrod or polar bear for the flys I tie competing for my limited dollars. The software just keeps rolling into the household in spite of any other passions that want to suck the resources right out of my wallet.

I can't place myself on any curve. Honestly, I'm always satisfied with whatever gear I own as long as it isn't broken and the only failure I have ever had was a power supply in my trusty Linn which led to my latest electronics upgrade. The Valhalla was the last item I replaced and discovered it was the source of my listening displeasure. The neat thing about this broken part is that I discovered active crossovers because of it. What a blessing in disguise!

I'll never be finished with the upgrades in my system just like my hotrod is never complete. What I have is this incredible group of mentors here at Audiogon. I want to thank all of you for keeping me thinking about audio and also allowing me the benefit of your combined knowledge without having to pay the price of admission. From an old geezer to a younger audience I have only one "sound" piece of advice: when in doubt, buy software.

I think that I'm probably 98% "there". But it's apparently that last 2% that separates audiophile aspirations from the attainments of people, such as myself, with more limited resources and/or competing concerns and priorities. I can hear what I'm missing in audio by visiting a few close friends.

I'm glad and lucky that I'm alive (after struggling with brain cancer for over a decade) and that I have a loving and very supportive wife and great friends. After some recent equipment purchases, the music at home is amply involving so that, even though I spend time at Audiogon and other audio sites, I am not preoccupied with upgrade concerns (though I have useful references and resources for when and if I'm able to make a move in that direction).
The "curve" is asymptotic. You can spend more and more, but you are never going to get all the way there. Find a spot you are comfortable in and enjoy the music. Nobody ever gets to the top of the curve. Nobody.

For myself, I am at the beginning. I've been involved with audio for over 30 years. I have alot of experience, and even worked in audio salons. I have embarked on an experimental journey which embraces alot of DIY, custom made products, and generally very out-of-the-mainstream stuff. I'm currently into micro power systems, and short signal paths, with acoustic air and room coupling to take up the SPL slack of the low power output. In other words, high efficiency, but no horns. IMO, front-horns go too far. I have small amps, and huge speaker enclosures with high efficiency single drivers. Synergy with a system like this is very very complex. Some might compare it to deep-sea fishing with ultralight tackle. It provides me with a new set of challenges that go beyond the usual, and stretch my capabilities. At the same time, it has worked very well to greatly improve my musical enjoyment, by giving me a deeper look into the music I have listened to for years, and not heard as much, as I am hearing now. I am also finding that it is possible to reach great heights in reproduction, without spending as much as some think necessary. If you think you're near the end, then find a new road.
I'm at the sweet spot of the curve, for me. We'll remodel at some point, and that will probably whet my appetite for an upgrade / change, but that'll be at least a couple years. The combination of what it costs to upgrade a component in my current system and the current economy, I've set my sights on new software and I'm loving every minute. You can buy a lot of software for the price of a high-end amp, and you can do it a bit at a time. By the time I do upgrade again, I'll have another several hundred CDs.
Enjoy the ride.
I'm with Subaruguru, go to a concert and realize how far off the illusion really is. The answer is when the performer(s) venue and room become one and there are no electronics or transducers evident to remind you. This is the reason we keep on searching. Not to say that there haven't been some heroic efforts by some to get closer. It takes time, money, committment and continued tweeking and at the end of the last tweek or component change when you think you're almost there something else will remind you that you're not.

Symphonic music lovers realize the truth, a great recording, large room, large system, loads of power is the starting point. There is no compromise for recreating an 80 piece orchestra in a home environment. I surmise by the question that the pinnacle of the curve equates to believing you are there?
I have been reconsidering recently what it means to be "there". In some respects, the most comfortable listening position for me at a concert is IN the orchestra, not in front of it.

In the intimacy of my own home, I want to listen INTO the music even more thoroughly, and I want the instruments to sound natural. I like resolution, detail, pleasing reproduction of natural instrumental timbres, and bloom. I am less concerned with large soundstage. I want lots of information at moderate listening levels.

My conclusion: I don't have an audio system to reproduce "the live event". I go to concerts for that purpose. I have an audio system in order to form a more intimate connection to the musical composition and the players than I am able to do at a live performance.
I agree with so much of what is important to you Judit, instrumental timbre being natural, first and foremost towards realizing long term musical satisfaction.

Beyond that there is recreation when walls really do dissappear and you are there. A small system is unable to do this on large symphonic music, at least I haven't personally heard one. My criteria is based more on an absolute reference of what is attainable more so than general enjoyment. To me there is a BIG difference between a large soundstage and recreating the soundstage of the venue. Another aspect of a great system approaching the pinnacle *the absolute sound* ?, is the ability to convey the space, dynamic shadings and image focus of individual instruments as we hear them in a live venue. To do this effortlessly and convincingly requires a large system.
"To me there is a BIG difference between a large soundstage and recreating the soundstage of the venue"

I heard that. With the better systems I have heard, I am not conscious of any soundstage boundary. But I digress.
Hello Tubegroover, on a great system, you're not only hear the "image focus of individual instruments as we hear them in the live venue". You hear the un-focus on the ind. instruments, also. For some frequency are directional, and some frequency are not. :-)
Well...I am further along than I have ever been...for whatever that is worth...and like many...I have made errors along the way...and have come to this conclusion: I prefer a simple system...monitors,intergrated,source...albeit all 3 being of very good quality...more or less a Brit influenced system...which suites inner city apt living...I also have learned the hard way...one way or another...to achieve hi-end sound...you gotts to spends some coin...