Many of us want to Changegrade instead of Upgrading

As I may have mentioned, I once saw an anime where the protagonists had a music cafe bar.  They had half a dozen bookshelf sized tube amplifiers on the shelves.  I guess the idea was they'd swap them out from time to time.

I really love the idea of doing that as audiophiles. Instead of chasing the next big score we should look for things that interest and excite us.  To chase the change instead of the "upgrade." So many see upgrading as a way of self-care or self-love.  I must love myself more, or be capable of more self-love because I just spend 10x what I spent last year on my speakers.  If that's you, who am I to stop you?

But it is worth stepping back from the "upgrade" ramp and asking whether money is actually paying for better or different.  If it's just different, maybe we need to do a changegrade.


When you get your system to make music that without doubt satisfies you, you can changegrade.  Until then you have to upgrade.



I think a lot of us can't ever be satisfied.  We make a change, fall in love, and then get the itch to changegrade again.  We need to accept who we are.  😂

I do that with the 3 set of speakers and a couple of integrated amps I have. I get the itch I swap things around, mix and match, or change grade as you say.

I have been satisfied at every level. Then after a time (saving money and enjoying my current system), would begin planning my next upgrade. Each upgrade and upgrade cycle has resulted in very substantial increases in sound quality and in my satisfaction of my system. I have never planned or unexpectedly received a sideway movement… OK, 45 years ago, I think I fooled areound for a year getting my first set of high end components right. 

I think my change grade is having a system in my office with a nice vintage Technics turntable and bookshelf speakers and dual subs with a pretty decent sound but quite different than with my main system. Not nearly a good as the main system but a nice change from time to time. 

@erik_squires Thank you for this thoughtful post. I relate to it greatly. I was on both upgraditis and changitis paths for over a decade. I ended up having three systems designed around three speaker designs - 3-way, electrostats, and horns, and then I started upgrading each system. This past year, I finally started getting content with just one system, which is now the system I have left. I decided to sell all of my spare gear. Once in a while I still upgrade something small to tweak, but it’s been fairly stable the last six months to a year.

Instead, I started a hifi company so I could help others through their journey! While the business has been moving slower than I’d like, I am rewarded in ways I never thought I would have - I get to meet lots of local audiophiles, and as people like the way I set up systems and treat rooms, customers ask me to come over and give them my perspective. So in the last few months since I kicked off the business, I’ve heard some incredible systems and incredible components in private settings, and I’ve gotten to play with them regarding positioning and tweaking. While I’ve heard hundreds of systems through the combination of my existing audiophile friends and family, dealers, and shows, the business has exposed me to even more systems that each present music a little bit differently, and it’s given me a lot of exposure to understanding the performance of different gear. And I’ve come to the conclusion that after a certain level of performance, it truly is worth appreciating “different” and not continuing to chase “better”.

How many of us go through phases where we listen to more jazz than rock or more classical than jazz etc for awhile? As each of those genres has a somewhat signature sound that's a bit different than the others, a related listening preference might find one enjoying more acoustic instrument than electric instrument music, resulting in a system component change or two that more accurately/pleasantly reproduces the sounds. I've made cartridge changes for that reason before.

Nelson Pass designs and builds amps with different personalities, for those who want a couple of girlfriends at a time.

I think most of us are already doing this with out calling it. Example when in my office I listen to my office system that consisted of two stereo streaming speakers with class D amps. Then in my car I listen to my Mark Levinson system feed by my phone into IfI hip dac. On my Deck I listen to JBL outdoor speakers being feed by my old marantz amp. Then of course I have my main rig in listening room down in basement. I can say I am off the up grade train as my main objective is to enjoy the music first and any way I can have it delivered to me. I will confess I am a tweeker with all my systems but that is only trying to enhance the main components that I am happy with. Also forgot to list my old Bose 901’s that are hanging from the ceiling of my garage (no need for anyone to chime in on Bose it’s my garage)!

@sgreg1 Bose 901s in the garage?  Have you considered upgrading or changing the garage, and keeping the speakers?

On the change grade side of things I have 3 amps in my main system that I rotate through every 2-3 weeks for a different flavor of things : Finale Audio 7189Mk2 integrated (EL84M/7189A power tubes) ; Line Magnetic 518IA integrated (845 power tubes) ; Modwright LS100 tube pre/KWA100SE ss power amp.


I did look into bass traps but my wife could not tell if her car was running or not!

then I concluded that no garage upgrade can make the 901’s sound any better or even any different. 


"I did look into bass traps but my wife could not tell if her car was running or not!"

Good one.

FYI- I use Bose 201s in my boat house.  The catfish, turtles and ducks have never complained.

Yep many of audiophiles were doing it already.  I had 3 amp/int. amp, 3 sets of speakers and two DACs, which render 18 combinations.  Of course not every combination is equally satisfactory but even a subset of those give sufficient rotations to fulfill your enjoyment or simply curiosity.

I rarely upgrade. I'll always try modifying something.  If you don't like what you've done, put the old parts back, try something else, or forget it.  

This is not for most people.  It takes a few years to learn what parts of a circuit to change. Most manufacturers spend a lot of time voicing their equipment, so you'll have to too.

It's cheaper than buying something new every year. You'll end up with something that sounds a little bit better. None of my stuff is new. I don't care about warranty or resale.