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.  






My one advice is:

More important than money spent, upgrade ONLY one thing at a time and give yourself some time for it to break-in and therefore you will be able to identify the differences it provides. If you don"t, you will never know what did what. 



Upgrading is useless in many cases and may induce you on the wrong direction even and especially if you pick a better component 😁...Beware...

Why ?

Because you will think wrongfully reinforced in the idea by a better upgrading purchase that in audio the solution is endless upgrading parts...

It is not that at all...

The solution is learning how to embed mechanically (vibrations) electrically( signals/noise ratio) and especially acoustically ( timbre and spatialization and immersiveness ) what you alread have BEFORE any upgrading or after a very necessary upgrading ...I upgraded myself in the past most of the times erroneously BEFORE learning the basic..

if you dont learn that , you will be lost for decades in costly upgrades , for sure at the end owning a costly system but knowing nothing about audio and acoustics save the user manuals of too costly components...

Why am i happy with a low cost system now under 1000 bucks ?

Am i deluded or deaf ? Think and pick your answer...😊

But you must know that when i spoke about crosstalk or immersiveness i learned how to control them in my room by homemade solutions ... 😊

Nothing will replace basic studies, use google for any search ...

The bad news is that my studying and experimenting with no cost in money solutions takes much time...I was retired to spell the truth... Most people are not retired...But i say all that because they must know the truth and be patient in their journey and not throwing money in a bottomless race toward sounds ...

This hobby is not about price tag collections is’nt it? But about learning with fun ( experiments) no ? ...It was for me after i learned the hard way by useless upgrading at first because i was ignorant in audio 12 years ago ( i am 72 years old ) 😉


A swing and a miss...its going to happen.  If something doesn't work for you, get out fast and move on.  However, if it does work, recognize that and take the winPerfection is the enemy of progress -WC.

Before I was able to spend more on my system, I put together a pretty nice sounding system with an Aragon 4004 MkII amp, B&W M803 S2 speakers, Pioneer Elite PD-65, and some preamp I can't remember.  It checked the boxes for tone, power, and dynamics and sounded pretty darn good on the music I listened to.  What I didn't realize is that I was probably two subs away from a system I could have happily lived with for years but I just couldn't let myself be satisfied.  Instead, I kept reading audio magazines and the internet and moving down the elusive upgrade path where I fell into a bunch of rabbit holes before (many years and dollars later) achieving a system that I am once again very happy with.

@ghdprentice I appreciate your comments and agree with you.

Your points help demonstrate currency is not just cash - it's also time. 

For me I enjoyed listening to my first system (MCS receiver and techniques turn table) no less than I enjoy my current system. Life's a journey and over the years I prioritized time and resources differently at different stages in my life.

Room acoustics. Get that right first, or early on in your pursuit. It can be easy, fun. But, it must be done. 
 Robert Harleys audio book is a good reference. There’s a ton of information on YouTube. 
of course, forums like this one are a wonderful source.