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.  






#10 is not right, at least to me. Music and sound quality walk together. If it doesn't sound good enough, there is no music, only an idea of music, you have to imagine things instead of experiencing the reality of them.

After 50+ years at this hobby (and it's actually much more to me than that, as I've put as much energy into building my system as I have my home, and yes, I built my own home at one time), I like having substantially-built equipment to listen with, speakers that weigh two hundred pounds each, and a fine looking and sounding turntable that is very satisfying to listen to.

For me, it had to be this way, due to my blue-collar means of supporting myself and my family. I don't wish I had this or had that, what I have for me is pretty much perfect, and spending more money would be no gaurantee I would enjoy much better sound quality in my music listening.

I hope everyone is able to get to listen to music in a way that is satisfying to them. So many ways to make that happen, and that is one of the great pleasures in this avocation.

My best to you all,


Agreed ghd. Buy it once and buy it right. You get nothing much in trade-in - but prioritize. Bang for buck. Speakers first, cables a distant last. Used everything unless you fall in love - like I did with Magnepan Tympani 1A, and I wish I still had them.

It is possible to build an audiophile system at low cost with the right synergy between components and acoustic knowledge , not without it....

I know because i had it....

I put 6 modifications on basic low cost speakers that now beat any headphone i ever owned save my top one...

Nothing could replace basic embeddings mechanical, electrical and acoustic controls and gear synergy... If you think that you need costly piece of gear to do it , you are mostly on the wrong path... begin with relatively low cost components and learn how to do with them and learn how to put them at their optimal level... If you succeeed it is even possible than you quit upgrading... I did... 😊

There exist a minimal quality threshold of sound experience... When you are there you forget sound completely because music listening now take all your time...

I forgot that it takes also serious reviews statistical analysis studies because it is not possible to optimize badly designed low cost speakers or headphones... Most are ... 😁 Some are not badly designed even at low cost...

My low cost speakers are good but sound miraculously better after my modifications... Dont hope anything by buying low cost components like speakers after plugging them without any optimization...

Although it is hard to go very wrong when purchasing high end equipment from well reviewed, mature, and reliable manufacturers (the resale value will usually be good anyway), there ARE GREAT bargains to be had in terms of value for $$, IF you do your research and shop wisely.

Cases in point from the early years and today:

1970s: NAD 3020 amp, Hafler preamp, Boston Acoustics A40 speakers. All giant killers. We newcomers were happy for years with that combination.

2023: SMSL or Topping DAC, AIYIMA Class D amp, ELAC DBR2-Reference speakers. Incredible value for the $$. Any relative new comer would be happy for years with that combination.


Am I wrong?