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.  






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.

I am 3 years new to this hobby after 25 years with different life priorities.  What I have learned is that others know better than me and I need to learn from them. My advice would be to:

1- Have clear idea what you want to accomplish within you means or budget.  

2- Patience!  Don’t buy gear on a whim or because it’s a good deal

3- Do your homework and it takes an effort by following reviews, forums, talking to sellers, attending shows however you like. It takes time an effort not just $.
4- Price does not mean better in all cases.  
5- Buy used to limit your trade up losses until you really understand what exactly you want.

6- Don’t dismiss or underestimate how much of impact tweaks make to SQ. Have an open mind and experiment on “your” system. Tweaking can reduce gear chasing and save big $’s.

7- Listen to advice with an open mind and validate it by making sure others agree and not one recommendation.  If many like it then it is usually a winner.

8- Thank people and show appreciation for others time and expertise. Pay it forward to others.  We can all learn no matter the level of your system.

9- Stop trolling and feeding the trollers.  It ruins the enjoyment when people are critical and attack others just to get a rise.  
10- The music comes first and sound quality should follow.

Take it or leave it just my take on this great hobby to be shared.



@Glenn747, re Schiit and speaking to Ghdprentices points about research/respected reviews - the principals behind Schiit have an outstanding track record in the industry. That brings up a good point - that it is not just the brand, but who are the faces behind the brand.