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.  






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.


There is not only a minimal level of acoustic satisfaction for any piece of gear at any price in general, but also an optimal acoustic satisfaction level for a specific chosen piece of gear, then there is 2 threshold defined by various acoustic concepts both objectively and subjectively because we can learn how to control these thresholds to some degree and to some level...

But these two thresholds are also related to a S.Q. /price ratio... A diminushing returns "law" in an objective and also subjective double way, 2 thresholds also here, which define a non linear relation between price and quality in audio ...

Then how can we get what we pay for ? If there is no linear relation between price and OBJECTIVE acoustic experience nor any linear relation between price and SUBJECTIVE satisfaction ?

You cannot buy knowledge and we always pay for ignorance...

For sure in principle a Magnepan speakers for example are way better than a small pair of active 4 inches bass driver speakers paid 100 bucks 12 year ago...

But wait a minute , what if i put the magneplanar in a bad room with the wrong coupling gear, and what if you couple the small box ideally in a perfectly well controlled acoustic environment and if you modified them to reach clear 50 hertz ?

I know because i listened to these two cases...

Guess which experience i prefered ?😊

Read me right here magnepan are better in principle to  low cost small active speakers even if well designed ( mine are ) ...But any piece of gear need to be coupled and embedded well to give a positive optimal sound experience...

It is the reason why i take seriously only basic knowledge, especially acoustics, over reviews of gear where the reviewers claim to deliver knowledge ...

I need to increase my knowledge way more than i need upgrading my components.. This is true not only for me as a principle but for everybody ...

But people want to pay with money not with their time and studies...

The upgrading series of purchase comes from this very often... Not from enlightened and knowleadgeable studies and experiments... I myself lived through this upgrading bug too... 😊




The meaning of " audiophile " is a person who is enthusiastic about high fidelity sound. There is no further distinction between those who listen to the music, or those that listen to the equipment. I communicate with many listeners, and more and more of them put the music secondary to the sound of equipment. My best, MrD.