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.  







Well, honestly everyone’s experience is different and their objectives different. There is a class of folks that @mrdecibel alludes to who have the money and are listening to their systems, and want the latest great reviewed amp or speakers, and yeah, they are kinda lazy. They want the prestige of the latest Mark Levinson amp. To me, that is not an audiophile… they are really not into the music.

I consider you a serious audiophile who had done his homework... You dont need my advice... But the beginners must be advised about what is essential at any price point... And it is not the gear but the synergy as you already knows it... Anyway you had better knowledge than  me about high end gear anyway... 😊

After that  necessary  synergy with all components it is all the electrical, mechanical and acoustical embeddings which matter BEFORE any upgrade... You already know all that and enjoy a top system now...

All i have to say do not concern you in the least and as i say if i had the money i will ask your opinion about the gear choices...I trust you... All audiophiles are not equal...😁

I am happy with my low cost system though ... It is possible to create minimal acoustic satisfaction at low cost and i succeeded doing it three times...thats all i say... All i ever said here concern beginners not owner of top well embedded system..


@mahgister ”It is possible to create… acoustic satisfaction at a low cost…”



We do not all swim in the same financial pool, yet loving great sound can be achieved without breaking the bank.  Being married to an Economist, we live by the rule, marginal cost versus marginal gain.

At a certain financial point, the cost exceeds the gain.  I am there myself.  I focus more now on things other than gear, i.e. quality source material, inexpensive room treatments, etc.

I am a proponent of Maggies and acquiring Mye stands and treating the space behind them provided an upgrade far in excess of their cost, by orders of magnitude.  This is an example of what can be accomplished once your gear is at a point where changes can be very costly.


The more money I've made, the less money I've spend on upgrades and finally not spending for upgrades even a notch except I do buy lots of music and currently released vinyl records. 

I think it’s true that you generally get what you pay for. But what you get by paying more may not always be something you want. This is what I’ve discovered in repeatedly being disappointed as I tried more exotic brands, and not just in audio. I could often notice improvements, but they were mostly unimportant to me. It’s good to know what you’re getting in to, and to some degree you have to step into the unknown and find out for yourself what’s on offer.

When I was younger I dreamed of cars with better acceleration, handling, and top speed. After stepping up a couple times I realized that was not what I actually wanted. As a young man I also wanted ultra-light high-end road bicycles. I went pretty much as high as you could go with that at one point, coming to the realization that my tastes were thoroughly satisfied with considerably less expensive bicycles. If I’m not a pro getting sponsored to ride an exotic bicycle, I’ve got no personal reason to ride something like that.