Changing to less expensive gear.

Have you ever traded a good but more expensive piece of gear for a cheaper and better sounding piece?

Comments are often made buy people with less expensive gear that what they have is good enough for the price. The implication is that more expensive gear does not provide better sound.

So this question, hopefully approaches this from another angle. I have never sold higher priced gear to get better sounding cheaper gear, but I'm not saying it cannot be done. What has been your experience?

I used to have a set of Wilson WattPuppy5s. I was driving them with a Mark Levinson front end, with top-end AQ cables throughout

I since replaced these with Radioshack speakers and a cheap kenwood HTIB with 22ga 3$/100ft cables with a few cheap rca interconnects. Honestly, the cheap setup kicked the wilson/levinson collective ass. In every single Aspect.
I challenge any of your high end systems to my system any day, i think we ALL know what the outcome will be.

Any of you non-believers can just kiss my hairy baboon butt.

P.S. I am a complete and total liar in every aspect except i DO own radioshack speakers... but i hate em....
I have never done it, but I have demod some very expensive (by my standards) gear in a dealer while waiting for the stuff I had purchased to be boxed, and also because it was quiet at the time and the staff enjoyed showing it off.

I don't remember exactly what it was, but it was some Martin Logan speakers with two huge mono block amps and a big silver CD player ... again I did not look at the label. I did not ask the cost, but it was the shop's statement system.

I was shocked. The $1000 speakers I had just bought, driven by a $1000 integrated amp with a $500 CD player sounded better than this statement system. Better in EVERY way. Imaging, dynamics, treble extension. The expensive system sounded BIG, but that was about it. In every other way it failed.

For the record my own comparison system was
Heybrook Sextet 3 way (ribbon tweet) speakers ($2000 new, $1000 used)
Mission Cyrus 2 with PSX power supply ($1000 new)
Marantz CD63SE CD player. ($500 new)
Many find that the "cheaper" gear is more forgiving and doesn't throw its' main defiency in the listeners' face.
I have "down-sized/graded" and found more enjoyment from my system.I was awefully proud to own the Burmester 001,but found I wasn't enjoying listening to it.The Gamut with a few well placed mods yielded more satisfaction and quite a bit of change in my pockets.Same situation with the VSA VR-6s,though I still wish I owned a Walker table.With the economy and "state of affairs" in two channel audio,I no longer felt that I wanted to spend every last dime on my system.This is a hobby,not the be-all ,end all of our lives.Many forget that the gear is in our homes to help us enjoy music,not the status symbol-nor the reason for this gear/hobby in the first place.
Down size and don't worry about what isn't there.The equipment will change and improve faster than the computers we use to monitor AudioGon with.Spend your extra money on the software and see what develops down the road.As in every other field,the latest technolgy trickles down and becomes more affordable,just like CD players,computers and flat-screen TVs.
Don't sweat the little things.
I decided to start upgrading after six years of having the same system about this time last year. Being a computer programmer, I figured that the best place to start was on the digital end.

I began with the digital cable, replacing my old MIT Digital Reference ($325.00) with a Stereovox HDXV ($75.00).

I then listened to a used Conrad-Johnson D/A-3 ($500.00), it had a fixed power cord and was single-ended. The only single ended interconnect that I had was an old Nakamichi(?) oxygen-free copper interconnect ($45.00). That c-j DAC and Nak. interconnect sounded so much better than my balanced Theta Gen. III ($3500.00) with a Synergistic Master Coupler power cord ($200.00) and Magnan Type Vi balanced interconnect (700.00), that I traded the Gen. III even for the c-j D/A-3.

I found out later that my Gen. III's used value was $1500.00 and the c-j's was $500.00. I never once regretted making that swap. Technology has made great advances forward.
Honestly, I DID DOWNGRADE my cassette deck.
I went from a 1985 Pioneer Elite CT-A9X cassette deck,
which in 1988 listed for $900, I paid $535 for it total.
I bought the NEW version CT-W616 consumer deck in
1999. It`s digital, so it REMOVES ALL THE TAPE HISS!
The signal-to-noice ratio with the
digital a-d/d-a converter is 82db, and that`s WITHOUT THE
DOLBY B/C ON. I paid $229 for that. It sounds BETTER,
cause there`s NO tape hiss! I listen to ALOT more
cassettes now.

We seem to be weighing in on the same threads. I have two systems that I primarily use ... a higher end Musical Fidelity system and a mid-fi NAD/SONY system. I use the same speakers in each system ... I own 2 pair of Acoustic Research 302 Classic Series speakers ... so the ultimate sound is pretty similar. The speaker placement is very different and that causes some sound differences. But, I can also hear clear distinctions between the two systems and I am very satisfied with how both systems sound.

With that being said, my NAD/SONY set-up gives me 85% of the Musical Fidelity set-up ... so I could effectively downgrade the MF system with less expensive equipment (i.e.: buy a Music Hall Mambo Class A integrated amp and pair it with a Music Hall MMF CD 25 cd player, that I already own) and I would probably wind up with 90/95% of my MF system sound.

The ONLY thing that stops me from doing this, is that I paid about 45% for the MF equipment on closeout, but it was also brand new. So downgrading buys me nothing at this point, but I could have achieved pretty much the same sound with less costly equipment.

<<< The implication is that more expensive gear does not provide better sound. <<<

This is where I would disagree. More expensive gear CAN provide better sound. But to my mind, the 80/20 rule plays big here. The question becomes ... does the incremental difference in performance justify the price difference? I might also add, is there also a need, for our own sanity, to rationalize the typical huge extra expense that chasing down the remaining 20% in performance entails? I do not make light of the pleasure that achieving near audio nirvana can provide, but dropping an additional $10 to 20K in the process, is something to examine, as well.

I purchased the MF equipment mostly because of the excellent sale price that I was given. So many of the Agon members buy their equipment used. This is why we own the high end equipment in the first place. If we were to limit our purchases to only new and to only list price ... our discussions might look more like an excursion through the Crutchfield catalog , as opposed to the Upscale Audio web-site (btw, both first rate, exceptional companies).

To your point, there is truly a fair bit of moderately priced, mid-fi gear out there that gets you a lot closer to the high end than most would care to admit. Engage someone like Roy Hall (Music Hall products) in this discussion and he will tell you that so many of the high end products are unique, but terrible sounding. Granted, Roy's business is in providing great sounding, but moderately priced products.

So, yes ... you can downgrade and get equal/better sounding gear. I would add that it is not that difficult to do.

Regards, Rich
I've done it over and over again with cables, amps and preamps. Aside from my TT setup, I've save over 70% of my original setup with better results after 3 years of gear changing.
Again, this is subjective view based on my system and my own findings.

Cables: DYI interconnects, power cords and speaker cables.
I used to own $$$$ cables until I was able to make my own with similar and some even better results. No need to mention brands here but I've tried over 50 different cables out there before I settled for the best combination. After that, I made my own cables which can produce similar results.

Amps: Vintage. Hidden treasures from the golden tube era. Blew most of today's high price amps away. However, speaker matching is required before one can decide if the amp is good or bad.
preamps: Vintage + mod. Again, hidden treasures from the golden tube era. It might required a little work to revive them to its original state. The end result is astonishing. It beats most of the preamps that's 2 to 10 times of its price.

I'm not able to do it with source.

CD player: IMHO, Cheap ones will never be better than a better one. Compared over and over again with all the CD players from $50 DVD players to $6000 CD players. However, once you get to certain price level, the differences become much less.
TT setup: The differences between my $600 setup vs my $10,000 setup is so big that I almost felt out of my chair.
The right combination with turntable, tonearm, cartridge, phono cables and phono stages and step up devices is very critical. I guess this is where I invested most. I don't think I can make a better tonearm or cartridge myself. I know I can still upgrade my turntable but the improvement will not be dramatic. I also don't see myself spending additional $5K+ on a TT by itself.

Tuner: This is also tough. I have yet to find a better sounding tuner under $1500 than my MR71. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough but I don't use it as often as the other sources so it is okay.
"The implication is that more expensive gear does not provide better sound".

I think this is not the implication. Rather, I think that the implication is that wise choice is more important than a large wallet, and that more expensive is not necessarily better.

To use a car analogy the Cadillac Escalade is an expensive car, but I think it's a total piece of crap in terms of its engineering. The Honda Civic is much, much less expensive but I think it's a vastly superior piece of engineering. However I am prepared to believe that it is possible to spend $50k on a car and get a car that is substantially better than a civic.
I recently went from a Rogue 88/VTL 2.5 pre w/ phono ($2,200 w/ ICs) to a $350 ASL integrated. Well, I also paid another $750 for a VTL phono stage (not a full pre), and I have basically cut my costs in half, but that doesn't even take into acount the cost of retubing, which will also be less than half of the original (8 total tubes now versus 17 w/ my old setup).

I am a lot happier with my result, and I think that I'm having more fun listening.

I have found that you really can't skimp on sources, hence replacing my old Project TT with the J.a. Michell Gyro (HUGE improvement!!!). My modded Music Hall CD25 might be on an even par with the Cary 308 I used to have, but they are apples and oranges; I like them both for different reasons.

System synergy and the vagaries of my listening room seem to have impacted the overall sound/performance than any amount of I have spent on total equipment. Still, I have gone from having laid out $9,000 on my system to about $5,000, and I'm pretty happy.

It's a lot of trial and error, frankly . . . Just remember why you're doing it: because you love the music, not the gear!

Celtic: My question is, were they really "upgrades" and how long did your level of satisfaction really last??? : ) Sean
I did this last year because I wanted less cluter for awhile,but now I want another reference system after selling mine off last year.

I will still keep my Panasonic SA-XR45 for my HT setup,but I want a seperate reference 2ch. system.

I do not want to pay the high price for a SOTA HT system and want to concentrate on egetting the cleanest ,clearest setup I can for testing components.

I know my speakers are top nitch unless I want to pay $6K plus for new ones.

Plinius, Passive Controller and a DAC are on my list of purchases as soon as I decide which I want I will purchase them.

Just thinking!
Switched from a Rogue Magnum 99 to a Blue Circle Despina, Didn't like either one of them. I tried a AES AE/1 to hold me over until I could figure out what I wanted. I have kept the AES. It is a killer little preamp at any price. IMHO, it blows away the Rogue and the Blue Circle.
I wish this was true. There is lots of expensive stuff I don't like the sound of but generally if you pay more you get more. One exception was the B&W dealer who had little 303's with an Arcam Delta 10 ( something like that) integrated. We listened to that while waiting to hear Thiel 2.3's / McIntosh.
Wow, the Thiel was a big letdown. Harsh, bright, downright unpleasant to listen to in comparison to the $1,000 special. Set up correctly I think the Thiels could win.
I have done this successfully with cable, as you can often find a much cheaper alternative which suits you and your system better.

It is much more difficult to do this with components or speakers, but it is possible.