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.  








Wow, I am really sorry to hear the experiences you have had with dealers. That is horrible.

Much of my interactions with dealers has been extended and great. One for ten years and two for twenty years. Each were generous with their time, absolutely honest (if they thought a component that they did not sell would be better… they would recommend going elsewhere), and collaborative.

When I go into a new store, I first find the owner / head honcho. I introduce myself, and my current system and long term strategy. Then I let him go. If he quizzes me, to better understand my values in sound… generally resulting in broad discussions on all things audio, this is good. From this discussion, I can assess his skill / experience level, his integrity, and emphasis on selling. Is this the kind of guy who knows all the different categories of sounds different people value, or only knows his own? Good folks take the challenge of understanding you and helping you achieve what you want. Most often my first trip is simply to establish a relationship… of see if it is possible. Sometimes, I know much more than he does. In that case, I can go in if I know what I want and I can ask him to hook up the components I want… I end up teaching him… that can be fun if he wants to learn.


Sometimes the result is that sales are the only important thing. This can be great, because the guy looses interest in you and you can just go into his best listening room and he goes back to his office. I have spent hours and hours with great systems like this.

I have found seldom has a trip been wasted. Even if it is clear I may never buy there, I get real experience. Then I have gotten a couple of long termed friends from this.

I had my eyes on Magico, DeAugustino, T and A and Levinson,  but 15K in losses from 3 dealers has forced me to scale back.

As an example, under point number 6.

There are only 2 high end dealers in my area of Jacksonville Florida. After returning here 15 years ago, I started doing business again with a shop that had the same owner since I was here in 1980. He sold this business about 5 years ago. The new owner sold me his design of music server. A $7,500 unit. After sales services were spotty and the software didn’t measure up. I then invested in other equipment that he felt I should have bought from him despite the fact that he didn’t have this equipment at the time , and I never auditioned it in his showroom. That’s when he stopped all communication with me. I was then forced to sell the server at a 50% loss. I couldn’t even trust him to provide support to whoever I sold it to so I traded it to a dealer. No names here but buyers beware.

1)After 50 years in audio, I’ve learned a few hard and valuable lessons. I started working in stereo shops in high school and became addicted. I have heard almost everything currently available at high end retailers and shows.

My best advice is as follows;

2) Listen to a $1000 system and then a 5K system and on up the ranks. If you’re not impressed, don’t invest. 
3)There is a point where a little improvement costs a great deal more.

4) If you don’t have a decent room, the best equipment will sound very limiting and disappointing.
5) Really good recordings will sound better on lesser equipment than average recordings do on the very best gear.

6) I have never found a dealer I fully trust. I have been burned  by them many more times than private party sales. I am referring specifically to after sales support as much as what they sell you.

7) Off brands, mods, and custom made one of a kinds are high risk.

8) Buying used or demo gear is great, but not usually cutting edge unless spending a great deal of money. Used loudspeakers are higher risk because of how they were run and handled previously.

9) Digital audio takes more money and time to get right than vinyl.

10) At some point, spending more just becomes an expression of addiction and ego.

11) Great cables, power supplies , RF,  and vibration control really do make a big difference.

12) Enjoy the hi end while you can because we are a dying breed. Portable audio is  taking over.




Thank you for your comments.


I really do not think we disagree. I am definitely not saying there is one path. I am pointing out that there is a path, that while still requiring lots of work, has a much higher probability of long term success. There is a real long term learning curve over time for listening and often values. You constantly don’t know what you don’t know yet.

Yes, exactly as you say, I am saying it is a safer path to take… I think that captures it. The path has lots of markers… it is not thrashing around the woods so much.


I have actually spent more money (early on), thinking I had found this wonderful component, only to find I didn’t when I learned more. Are there boutique components that hold up to the big guys in all respects… yes, but they are far between. Those are the budding new companies that will eventually become main stream.




Not sure I agree (respectfully).  I don’t think there’s just one path, and I think there are actually a lot of boutique companies out there that have not yet - and may never - achieve widespread appeal and coverage by the mainstream audio press.  And in some cases, this may have less to do with engineering than marketing (or even serendipity).  

So for example, I have 3 different systems, and I think I may have only have a couple pieces that fit your description - Audio Note speakers and Koetsu cartridge in my big rig, and Ortofon cartridge in my vintage system.  (Not sure where you come down on restored vintage pieces like Garrard and Thorens idler drive turntables or Altec horns.).  I have boutique brands from all over the world - Leben and Triode Corp from Japan, Synthesis and Gold Note from Italy, Audio Creative from the Netherlands, Reed from Lithuania, Okto from the Czech Republic, Acoustic Zen and Fern & Roby from the U.S. - and I am extraordinarily happy with the quality of the sound from each of my systems.

Traditional, well-known and reviewed brands may be a safe (and sometimes expensive) approach to achieving what we are all seeking, but I think there are other, credible paths.  Having said that, I love your system!


I only experimented enough to know how to embed rightfully three audio basic system...

Many here are more talented and knowleadgeable in audio and gifted in craftmanship work...

I am not...

I only tried hard for many years to reach a relatively audiophile sound at low cost and i identified some problems others did not identify clearly as the triple embeddings controls at low cost and basic acoustic to optimize specific ears/ specific speakers/ specific room relation... Thats all...

I discovered against all odds or most opinions by experimenting that it is possible to reach good sound with all acoustic factors well optimized at relatively low cost...Most people dont think nor believe that , they are too much gear dependant and not enough interested in acoustic to experiment and study it a bit...Then they stay vulnerable to marketing and their experience is limited to  a good or bad components synergy... They dont experience the impact of all three embeddings controls together if well done... Then only costly component upgrade make sense for them to improve the synergy between components ...

No acoustian bother themselves with price tag when they create a room for a specfic pair of ears and a specific pair of speakers, if the basic audio system is relatively good and synergetical to begin with ... Acoustician know that the sound source is the room/speakers and the ears inner filters and structure and the HRTF not the files, the vinyl, the R2R or sigma dac or tube dac etc nor the amplifier etc, all components like cables are only vehicle for some information going to  the SOURCE of the sound experience  which is acoustically all acoustic factors linked to the ears/head/speakers/room... Then playing with acoustics is more impactful in shaping the sound than changing a good amplifier for another good one in most marginal upgrade which are most upgrades...

Upgrading component work when for some level of price there is a bad synergy between components, it does not work anymore and easily when for some level of price you had good synergy...

And i prefer low cost system well embedded generally to higher costly one badly embedded ... Most people would pick the reverse choices..😊 I would be tempted too because i know how to embed any system at any price, acoustics dont change with price...




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

Good advise and worth repeating.

Have you considered a career in hi-end audio?



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

Good advise and worth repeating.

Have you considered a career in hi-end audio?



Yes, absolutely. Piecing together a fantastic system is all about “tne right stuff”, and for most of us, the right stuff is typically out of reach… until… suddenly it is… a special discount, a used component, a raise. 



Thank you for your kind words about my system. Over time my tastes have definitely moved towards musical. This being the most musical system I have ever owned… I never listen to my system… it is always the music… and as I probably mentioned earlier, after three hours of listening I have to drag myself away to do something else.

Think I have researched the whole audio/music subject and have waited sometimes five years in some cases for the right piece of equipment to pop up used. Had Jim Smith over multiple times. I listen to the equipment to hear the music. Profound I know, yes? Have overhauled my system one time over a two year span and yes spent some hard earned bucks. 

My advice is to set your eyes on your end game pieces and wait until they come available. Play with the room, electricity and whatever until a piece comes up and stretch your budget but keep your priorities in line. JMO

@ghdprentice , I should have stated " $6 figure + systems ", as I have a multi thousand dollar system. Your home, and systems, look very nice. I am familiar with AR running SF, and it is truly a most enjoyable presentation. This is the beauty of our hobby. There is so much gear, to cater to " any kind " of listener’s, tastes, budgets, and rooms. Enjoy ! and my best. Always, MrD.


I agree that audiophile has no connotation on whether the person in question prizes listening to music or their system, or somewhere in between. Absolutely the high end audio cater to their clients. It is a continuum from nearly entirely one versus the other. Over our time I have met folks everywhere on the continuum. I’m not sure I have picked up on a trend over time.

I have heard lots of very expensive systems that have not appealed to me. The worst (to me ) are the details at all costs… with lots of distortion and high frequency hash… without rhythm and pace, and midrange bloom. Sometimes the systems are poorly set up, sometimes poor component matched.. I can usually tell what they were going for and if it is targeted at a specific audience (the detail / slam folks) or just poorly set up.

I have heard a lot more inexpensive systems that have sounded terrible. Often, less expensive components have more flaws and are assembled by less capable staff or enthusiasts. I have done a lot of auditions over the years. My partner and I have often started to listen to a system and quickly turned to each other and rolled our eyes and walked out. She is not interested in high end audio, but has ultra sensitive ears of a women that are easily offended by distortion and high frequency hash.

Your system looks very enjoyable.

@ghdprentice I am not here to argue, disagree, or judge. I am stating a fact, based on my interactions with people in the business, as well as consumers. And yes, I started this hobby in the early 60’s, so my timeline is similar. Say what you will, it is all good. The hobby caters to every kind of listener. I have heard multi thousand dollar systems, that do nothing for me. I will take my system, any day of the week. Being individuals, with our own preferences, is a wonderful thing. Enjoy ! MrD.

The definitions of audiophile I have heard and lived with for the last fifty years always include a very strong thread of obsession… always willing to… well in my case buy discount brands of paper towels, tp, buy an old cheap car (my used 1969 Datsun 1200, in which I rebuilt the engine, got me around for over 15 years, this’ll avoiding popularity with all but the most desperate woman), while I took out my first loan on a Threshold s500 amp ($5K, $19K in todays dollars). An audiophiles system always cost more than their car. This has always been true for me.

My partner always comments that the ratio between audio dollars and normal dollars is about 100 to 1. I will really try to find a way to avoid spending $20 but a $2K on a new cable gets an instant and easy yes.

Audiophilia is generally considered a disease by those with it as well as those around them… while somewhat jokingly… with a lot of truth.

There are also hi-fi enthusiasts and a couple other classifications where consideration is put into how much better does it sound… and is it worth it. Typically “is it worth it?” Is only heard from enthusiasts, or in private intimate discussions between two audiophiles… fully knowing no one else would even hear the minute difference being discussed.

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.

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... 😊




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.


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. 

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.


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




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..



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.

To me, real audiophiles are dedicated to achieving the best sound / music reproduction possible over the long term. So how much system listening / music listening a person appreciates falls unto a continuum. I know I have been seduced somewhat by certain system aspect at times… but my main interest has been music, as most but not audiophiles.

Over my lifetime I have been able to invest larger and larger amounts of money in my systems. Audiophilia is not a pursuit of the lazy or stupid… so, in general they are likely to do well in life, especially over time. I think this is true for most audiophiles. It is not unrealistic to expect their income will rise over the decades. So better systems are in the future.The amount of effort I have put in, has probably been relatively constant at hundreds of hours a year for over five decades. Invested in reading, researching, listening to acoustical music, auditioning systems and equipment, and tweaking my system, even though I only upgraded on average once every seven years.

While it is not the cost of a system that makes the audiophile… it is the dedication and passion to the pursuit that makes the audiophile.


So, if you are looking at a typical audiophile, they will be looking to upgrade their system over decades. The most difficult time for someone new to the pursuit is the first decade… it can be very overwhelming, there are so many ways to get frustrated… sideways moves, trading one benefit and losing three… chasing detail and loosing the musicality.

One of the most eye opening experiences that has happened to me repeatedly during my pursuit of the high end has been to stretch and buy a real piece of audiophile gear… frequently used in the beginning. Real audiophile gear, even if old (well, typically less than 10 years) typically outperforms “the DAC or CD Player of the year” or the new hit, by a large margin. These components have every aspect optimized by design engineers that completely understand the nuances of high fidelity sound.  You know, the 45 pound preamp, or 150 pound amp. Why? Every detail has been meticulously considered and optimized. The manufacturing processes have been carefully crafted, with all sorts of tests and checks to guarantee flawless operation. These products have been perfected over decades of research, addressing all aspects of sound quality, not just a few.

My point is, if you are working to put together a truly exceptional system over the long term, navigation through the complexity and ambiguity can be aided by staying mainstream audiophile… real audiophile gear, when possible.


I think what the OP is saying is to buy the best you can afford. And if you can't, save up for a little bit longer instead of going after the next 'giant killer'. Don't think his point was to buy uber expensive systems.

Very interesting point mrdecibel ...

Myself i think that most audiophiles are such as you described because they never .learned that between music personal engagement and the gear component is acoustics learning...Many  are lazy and buying is way less costly in time than studying and experimenting with basic synergetical gear...

Then they test their gear instead of listening music between two upgrades...

Basic acoustic and electrical and mechanical embeddings teach us how to gain the most from any system ... Upgrading teach nothing...


When I was an active audio consultant, I felt it was my job to help the listener understand the various differences between components, such as tubes vs ss, box, panel, horn speakers, etc. and determine what the listener’s preferences are, based on the music that brought them the most enjoyment. Many of these people were more interested in the sound of equipment, and the prestige in owning said equipment, than to engage, musically, with the performance, of their favorite recordings. And when I say favorite, I am talking about Sheffield Labs, Telarc, and other labels that presented a higher degree of pinache. They would only listen to these better recordings, which showed me, they were audiophiles, first, and music listeners, second. I find this to be the case today, based on my experiences, reading, and talking with people. But, those that put the music first, were the easiest to assist in their journey, and were happier, long term, to listen to the system I helped put together, than those that went on the " next purchase " bandwagon. A system should ENGAGE the person, in that moment of listening, and this engagement, is where things get interesting. We need to determine what attributes of sound, are the most important to us. I learned mine, at a very early age, and I give credit, to my dad, who loved music and bought some nice gear at the time, and to my music teacher, who helped me determine what to listen for. Being a member of a chorus, was also an enlightening experience, and added to my golden ears. Golden, as I know, what characteristics in a sound system, are important to me. Some of you have gotten to this stage ( no pun intended ), and some, unfortunately, have not. My advice has been the same for years, on this forum. the musicianship...the artistry...and the arrangements...WHAT are the musicians doing on " your stage " ( your system ). Most folks are more interested in WHERE are they, on the stage, and the sound, size, distance, of the stage / environmental acoustics. While I do believe these characteristics are important ( they ARE on our recordings ), those qualities of sound are secondary to my main interests....The artist’s PLAYING, singularly, and together. The PERFOMANCE itself. I ranted enough, and I apologize. My best, always, MrD.


Thanks for your gracious response. I'd agree that, from a dealer's standpoint, encouraging customers to audition better gear makes sense, for a number of reasons.    

In retrospect, it's occured to me that what I was responding to was not actually the content of your post but the mind-set of "constant craving" that seems so pervasive in this hobby. I don't personally enjoy this state of mind but it would appear that for a good many, it's pleasurable. Different strokes, as the saying goes. 

And, if everyone was satisfied with their systems, there wouldn't be nearly as much to talk about, here. . . ;o)

There is a minimal acoustic satisfaction threshold...

This threshold is defined by many acoustic factors you must learn to recognize in your system room by studying and experimenting ...No money needed..

 When this minimal satisfaction threshold is there you know how to upgrade with a real change not a marginal one and often most upgrading are no more appealing...

It is my experience.. i am more happy than most with two  low cost synergetical  systems i learned how to embed than most with costlier system not well embedded... ...





"For me at least, there’s an advantage to "willful ignorance" when it comes to audio."

I agree with this statement.  There's nothing wrong with staying in one's comfort zone.  We still service vintage gear.  Many pieces are 45+ years old.  To their owners, these solid examples of "consumer gear" from the era are musically satisfying and represent the best of the best in their audio world.  I am certain that they wouldn't trade a stack of current "audiophile gear" at 10x the value or their equipment even up, for a variety of reasons.  So, I listen intently when they tell me how great their system sounds, and try to uphold the promise of not having their equipment leave here in worse shape then it was when it came in.  

Personally, I hit the "eject button" about 10 years ago on my "reference system."  The reasons are complex.

As mentioned earlier, inviting people to audition "better gear" was the right thing to do in my opinion as a dealer.  Our Mission Statement read something like:  "Helping people reward themselves for being successful."  Denying them the opportunity to take their musical experience to another level was unethical in my opinion.  As I told many customers:  "You live there.  I don't."  

Sounds like you're still enjoying your system, and have made good choices.  Well played (literally).


Many have not had the opportunity to audition equipment at 2x-4x their budget to see what they are missing. They were never invited to do so, or it was not even on the radar. Doing so would have changed their world. Or, at least their appreciation for better gear.

For me at least, there’s an advantage to "willful ignorance" when it comes to audio.

I don’t have the financial means to follow the advice of @ghdprentice and double my current investment. I’ve taken my system about as far as I can, at this point. Accordingly, I don’t see much of an "advantage" to exposing my ears to dramatically better sounding gear, as given my personality, it would most likely breed dissatisfaction. 

It would seem I’m an outlier but given a choice between peace of mind and "appreciating better gear", I’ll opt for the former.

As a dealer, I always invited customers to audition items at home "a notch above their comfort level." This would produce the following result: 1) they’d realize what they are missing and stretch the budget to make it fit, 2) solidify their price/performance decision at their preestablished budget level, thus validating their purchse, or 3) determine what their future upgrade will look/sound like.

I agree that the brands that have received accolades from (credible) sources are the safest bets. Parts quality matters, and budget considerations will have an effect on sound quality. Those manufacturers/designers generally throw resources at things that matter sonically. They have their priorities right, and consistently produce stellar results.

Many have not had the opportunity to audition equipment at 2x-4x their budget to see what they are missing. They were never invited to do so, or it was not even on the radar. Doing so would have changed their world. Or, at least their appreciation for better gear.

@ghdprentice  - valid points but not always the best way to assess a system.  Not all manufacturers use the best parts in their components.  Reviewer systems and dealer system do not always sound good. Most peoples experience is with the standard manufacturers equipment.  The way to learn is to understand what produces sound that you prefer.  For example, different tubes produce different sound.  Most people here have never heard a 101D direct heated triode tube.  Most have never head field coil speakers.  Most reviewers have not heard these also.  So even they can have limited experience.  Once you understand the sound issues and understand what impacts those issues then you can build a system for your ears.  Most people chase sound but they do not understand why one component impacts that sound.  We recently were surprised by jumetite speakers.  Never ever heard of them before.  Built way back in the day and only a few exist.  Really nice sound compared to a lot of expensive speakers we own and have heard.  We have several systems in our listening room an we get to play around with so much equipment we get to hear the impact plus we upgrade and modify equipment so we get to understand the impact of changing parts, etc.   I love that so many people come over with their gear and tell us how much of an impact this or that does in their system.  But no so much in our systems.  Simply because we understand what impacts the sound so our equipment already does what they are looking for from sound.  We recently repaired and did minor upgrade to a Harmon Kardon CDP.  After a few better parts, that CDP will compete with many higher priced components.  Is it a giant killer, well no, but the customer will not be disappointed in the sound esp3ecially for the price.  We learn every day.  You really need to understand sound and what produces the sound you prefer first before you spend your time going to shows, reading reviews, going to dealers, and swapping out equipment.  Once you understand this, then you can build a system for your ears.

Happy Listening.        

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. 

@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.

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.

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 ) 😉


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. 



Am I wrong?

You are right...

I bought Sansui alpha and never look back...

I tried to upgrade it with one of the top tubes headphone amplifier in the market one month aGO , it cost me a almost the cost of my actual system in return fees and assurance and customs... after few minutes of listening i know that i HAD made a mistake , the Sansui is a top flasgship in 1985.....upgrading it will cost me 10,000 and only with the right amp not the first one at this price...

Vintage dont means obsolete in some case...

Same thing is true for my AKG K340... Impossible to upgrade if i dont pay 50 times their cost used...

Think about it....

And after buying vintage read about acoustics...For dac vintage is not a good idea, a new recent well reviewed one even at  relatively low cost will do... I own 4 with no faults when coupled synergetically...

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?




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...

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.

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,


#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.


"you will read many posts extolling the superiority of lessor gear. There can be many reasons… the persons current value in sound, inexperience in listening, etc. also, there are lots of folks that simply say the kind of gear I am taking about is just marketing hype, a rip off… etc. "

You forgot one.

That the person doesn't have $50K to $100K in disposable income to indulge themselves.

@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.

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.



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.