One key to building great systems over time.

One of the great things about participating in an audio forum like this is that it exposes you to users with all sorts of experience levels. Analyzing questions, I find myself assessing the person’s experience and then going back to that time in my history. I have been at this for fifty years… and I am constantly called back to my first few years when I was working to make sense of the whole environment.


It dawned on me that one aspect that really helped me was learning to focus on “main stream” highly reviewed (professionally) audiophile equipment. 


When you are young and have few pennies you have to take chances on “giant killer” components… and off beat / new astonishing technology. You have lots of time and little money. But looking back, after the first few chaotic years of swapping this “astonishing” component (that had a couple good attributes, but a lot of weak ones)… I slowly realized that the components that stayed in my system (like for 10 years or more) were highly reviewed components from respected high end companies. Back in the late 70s’ early 80’s that was, as an example:  Audio Research, Threshold Pass), and Nakamichi.


They cost lots more… but, if I would actually buy one… well, my jaw would drop… and I would realize… holy cow…so worth it!  My search for that component would end.


Over the ensuing decades, putting together a fantastic upgraded system has become much easier. The last couple major upgrades I have made… ~$45K to $75K and finally to $150K have had completely predictable results been the most fulfilling of my life. The decisions were simple.


So, for those just starting out… trying “highly touted” giant killers is a necessary way of assembling a system that is outside of your budget. But this also leads to lots of disappointments and equipment churning. 


I think my advise is to read lots of professional reviews (they are not all perfect), listen to that equipment when you can, and invest in these well regarded audiophile company components as soon as you can… or sooner. As a beginner, you don’t know what you don’t know… so companies with long histories of being at the very top of they fields are very likely to outperform in ways you are not aware of. 


I am talking about companies like Conrad Johnson, Audio Research, Boulder, Pass, Wilson, Sonus Faber, Rowland, Aurrender, Magico, Transparent. That is not an exhaustive list.


I hope this is helpful to those trying to make sense of this very complex and contradictory pursuit.  






While I agree that your approach makes sense for those willing to spend considerable sums for higher end gear, I've taken the approach of reducing my spend, while increasing my satisfaction by buying older or more utilitarian gear, having  been dissatisfied with higher end / higher priced mainstream gear and no longer willing to pay the rapidly increasing prices of mainstream high end gear.

Examples of changes I've made in which I've saved money (or minimized spend) and increased my satisfaction:

  • Refurbished Altec Model 19's replaced and are more enjoyable than my previous Harbeth 40.2 Anni's
  • DeHavilland UltraVerve 3 preamp outperforms previous Aesthetix Calypso Signature
  • Roon Nucleus paired with Ifi Zen Stream as ROON endpoint sonically outperforms and is more dependable than previous Aurender N10
  • Duelund speaker cables outperform my previous Auditorium A23 speaker cables
  • Duelund power cables outperform my previous Cardas PC's
  • Quicksilver amps are utilitarian, with minimal expense towards aesthetics.   But they sound good and are reasonably priced.
  • I bought a used Weiss 202 DAC for $1750 , but it retailed for approx $7,300 and was predecessor to the current 501 DAC that retails for around $10K.

In summary... I don't disagree with your approach... but for those unwilling or unable to spend $15K for amplifiers and $15-25K on speakers, excellent systems can still be obtained for far less if done carefully.  In my case, I've increased my satisfaction by replacing higher priced gear with lower priced higher value and/or older gear that work well together.

Big fan of Quicksilver. That is exactly the type of gear you want to check out. No frills, excellent sound, reasonably priced. There are lots of companies offering great value , these and other forums are a good start but nothing like visiting a dealer.

Most important!!! Something I heard a while back by ghdprentice, and that is NEVER make a lateral move. Total waste of time and money and source of major disappointment. If a new component doesn’t wow you, it’s not an upgrade

"I am talking about companies like Conrad Johnson, Audio Research, Boulder, Pass, Wilson, Sonus Faber, Rowland, Aurrender, Magico, Transparent. That is not an exhaustive list."

Thanks for the advise to buy expensive, high quality equipment to get better sound.

That makes sense. Why didn't I think of that.