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.  









Yes, working with a dealer can really help. For most of my time at this pursuit I have at least worked closely with a dealer. Often, they would not carry all the brands I was interested in. But, they can be invaluable.

The essence of pursuing the highest quality system you can get is navigating through a nearly infinite amount of equipment and possible combinations… only a very few that you could possibly experience… and all this equipment is surrounded be marketing hype, dubious reviews with lots of misinformation from folks with different values.


Navigating this complex space is difficult. Dealers can help. Also, why I made this post.


Unrelated, some folks enjoy churning equipment. Nothing wrong with that… the journey is the objective. Mine has never been that. Mine has always been get to the best well balance system possible and enjoy listening to music for the next decade.




Off and on throughout my time (50 years) at this pursuit I have tried “Giant Killers” and without exception they proved not to be. Either immediately, or within a short time I would start hearing their shortcomings, after that, I could not unhear it.

Put it simply, avoid product lines that are relatively unknown and unproven.

That aside, if you have even a very modest budget by high end audio standards, and do your homework, there is in fact a decent chance that you land on a relative "giant killer".   Some high performers will cost more than others.    Price alone assures nothing.