Question: What are some of your best pieces of advise to someone new to the hobby?

I have a friend who is interested in putting together a system and am putting together a little guide for him, compiling information I’ve found over the years, plus some of my own personal tips and tricks. However, I am by no means the end-all-be-all of knowledge and want to incorporate information, tips, and tricks from the community - however basic they may seem - into a nice reference resource.

Without specifically naming any pieces of gear or brands (this isn’t a product recommendation question), what are some of the biggest tips, tricks, important pieces of info to keep in mind, caveats, etc. that you would have for someone new?

*side note - hopefully this post can also serve as a nice reference point for people in the future, as well!


Buy and read (!) a good book on audio systems and set up of your room. Set up is paramount as is selection of components, based on synergy, not cost, flash, or brand name. Due diligence before acting and some old fashioned critical analysis will save a lot of downstream grief. What works for all of your advisors, for a lot of reasons, may not work your for you at all.

Sounds like Polonius (pompously) giving advice to his son, Laertes, i.e. ’neither a borrower nor lender be.....". :-)

Never audition a system that you cannot afford or for some other reasons cannot have. This is hazardous to your mental health.

Don't rush it, take your time.

Choose your speakers first. 

Go to AXPONA etc.

Buy used if possible. 

Concrete floor (and walls) if possible. 

High price doesn't mean it's good.

@noromance yeah i noticed the typo a bit ago but can't edit the thread title...🤦‍♂️

Thanks for the recommendation

Don’t be led by performance specs alone- your great overachieving wonder box may end up sounding nothing more than harsh.

Although it’s practically impossible these days- try to hear as much as you can in person.

Try to avoid being the Guinea Pig when it comes to new products. Give a little time for the buzz to wear off- that’s usually when people’s honest opinions come out.

Pay attention to what products are being sold and how often- this can be a good indicator of how satisfied people actually were based on its age.


I was in the same boat 5 years ago. I am off the boat now since I am DONE. I have two 2-channel systems that I love and a headphone system that is amazing. Here are some things I think are useful.

  • Audiogon is very useful. I have not tried this yet but ChatGPT could be even more useful with A’gon.
  • The ROOM is the most important piece of gear. Unless you have headphones.
  • Pro audio gear is something to consider. They also tend to cut out some of the BS
  • Streaming is bits getting from one place to the other. Audio streaming these days is done using TCP (I think almost everyone) . However, there are differences in sound with streamers. I think a cost effect way to solve this is to use Fibre Optic cables to stream. Even with a electrically noisy (analog) network the Fibre cable will kill that noise before it get to the DAC since it is made of glass. Glass cannot carry the electrical noise. It is very simple and cheap to get the last mile to the DAC with Fibre.
  • Higher cost does not mean better. My DONE gear was cheaper than what preceeded it.
  • Before you invest in headphones listen to the RAAL SR1a and or CA1a. You will then not waste a lot of time and money.
  • Gear has a sonic signature. Listen to warm, smooth, neutral, bright gear and see what floats your boat. Different pieces can be used like ingredients in food. Mix it up to get the taste you like. Usually the same type of gear tends to be a bit too much of a good thing.


Listen, Listen, Listen before buying equipment. And listen to music that they like.

  • The sound we like is extremely choose what you like
  • Speakers are very room dependent, and you’re listening room is unique
  • Buy speakers you love the sound of, and that work well in your room, then buy an amp that drives them well
  • Home equipment trials are best
  • Treat the room acoustics as needed
  • Placement is critical, and experimentation necessary
  • Listen to better gear than you can afford, then buy the best you can
  • Keep an open mind about what effects sound, specs don’t tell us how something sounds...use your ears.
  • Audio is a journey, and it's unique to you...enjoy!


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Experiment for fun at no cost...

Read about acoustics science... VERY IMPORTANT....

If not you will not know how to recognize all aspects of sound...

A dedicated room value is way more than any upgrade...

This hobby has nothing to do with "price tag" nor with "upgrades"...

This hobby is about embeddings controls ( homemade or at low cost ) of the three working dimensions ,mechanical ( vibrations and resonance), electrical ( signal/noise level) and especially acoustical one ( speakers/ears/room ) for ANY systems at ANY cost...

Look for synergy first creating a basically low price system commensurate with your wallet , then learn about all three working dimensions before any upgrade..


At the end the best system in the world in the scale optimal ratio Price/S.Q. will be ours and it will be the best,but why?

Because it will be more the result of your own creativity in learnings than the result of a big bank account ..

Experiment and dont listen anybody save acousticians and some top designers when they dont spoke about their products..

Users reviews in bulk have greater value than any pro- reviewer opinion...Read between the line and add all opinions details in various columns and analyse... This is especially valuable for low cost good vintage products...

Dont fall in the actual  dac money upgrade race  pit...😁

Human are designed by evolutive habit to recognize speech and musical designed sounds in a time oriented dimension not noise and non musical sounds ... Then learn music from all mankind not only music from your own culture.....


Music is the unspoken and silent speech of the soul.... The sound/body live and die but music is forever ...

Beware about the kind of music you will put in your head... music is vastly more powerful than you think and you will became what you will listen to...


One more about reviewers: If they say the sound is slightly anything, you can bet it’s actually a lot more than that. So, slightly warm = dull, a little bright = searing, dry sounding = etched and colorless etc.

+1're already getting some contradictory and mostly listen ...

- Any information lost or distorted at the source cannot be retrieved or “improved” further upstream.

- To one degree or another, everything matters.

- Try (really hard) to attend at least a couple of live acoustic (or at least minimally amplified) music performances before pulling out the credit card.

Good of you to help a friend.  Good luck.

Take anything anybody tells you with a proverbial grain of salt. You'll hear a great many differing opinions.... 

I can only suggest on what not to do:

 Don't listen to neither audiophiles nor salesman at hi-fi shop. 

Everything else is fine.

Two more:

- Ignore the cynics.

- Be careful with the opinions of those who never mention the music. 

" Cynism and sarcasm are often the money of those who borrowed too much and never repaid"-- Anonymus


My brother is almost deaf and he once told me after seeing my audio system and almost laughing at me that we dont need an audio system to hear Bach... 😁


"Pay no attention to forums like this."

I assume this comment is tongue in cheek, but just in case it isn't, I have a  different take on this.

I believe there is gold mine of information available on this site, if one is capable of parsing through the comments and gleaning what is truly useful.

Comments that are based on educated listening and years of searching for better sound are very valuable as a way of benefiting from the experiences of others, without all the related costs and heartache. I often search the historical database before making a purchase as a way of shortlisting components or getting a sense of what that component offers sonically. One can even get a sense of how components work together by analyzing certain members "virtual systems".


Speaker placement (minutely adjustable) in the room has a greater impact upon the ultimate SQ than anything else. Just make sure that the amp(s) can drive the speakers to your desired volume.


Home auditions are beneficial.

Read and learn all that you can but don't substitute what you hear with what some review says is good - your ears are the only criterion for excellence - if you can't hear a difference on a new piece of gear you just spent thousands on based on a third party review, you wasted your money.  If it sounds better to you, then the money was well spent.

The problem when people say trust your ears not reviews is that our ears must be TRAINED...

Sound is not a taste question , save for those who think that a dac and an amplifier make the sound by themselves instead of the triplets : ears/speakers /room...And even here with this triplet it is more about acoustic in specific small room than taste... A good timbre and spatial sound experience is defined by acoustics not by taste...It is not based on price and gear as much as on acoustic ...

There is only 2 ways to train our ears VARIED musical listening and experience and acoustic concepts and experiments...

Upgrading dac and amplifier for "our taste" is a way to turn back on the road instead of facing the question : is this sound acoustically right about the timbre factor , listener envelopment and instrument sound volume extent (holography) ...Basically  ANY synergetical good dac and amplifier can do the job, why upgrading before knowing what we do just because we obey the hype ?

We must learn how to make possible this experience with synergetical components first yes but you must learn how to discern and control these factors too to some degree ideally... it is why nothing replace learning acoustic concepts... Beware , it is more than room treatment...


If possible find a good knowledgeable dealer to work with and who offers you an upgrade path. Looking back at my experiences I  probably would have had better sound quicker and for less working with my current dealer.

Another thing is realize what you don't know, again looking back I was buying stuff used 15-20 years ago that I had no business owning. Esoteric gear, tubed gear dip your toes gently into that realm until you get some real experience under your belt.

Be true only to your own ears.  Buy for passion, not resale value and not to prove others right.  Buy what makes you enjoy the music the most in your own home at your own volume and pace.

However you go about it ( listening to as much gear / systems as possible, with your favorite music, is the best way, ime ), you will need to determine " what are your listening preferences ", those qualities and characteristics in recorded music, you enjoy the most. Eric_squires, as he states " be true to your own ears ", is great advice. Understand, we all are different and unique in what we like. This, is your journey. Enjoy, and, my best. MrD.

Don’t be put off by sticker shock. Get something that gets you going, then start researching. I think everyone can attest after a long and thorough search, adding a new piece of gear into the system, is one of the great joys in life. 

Auditio, audition…audition. Listen to live acoustic music. Read Harley’s book. Always stretch for an audiophile component. 

An entry level system and a very good room is better than a great system in a crap room.  Get the room right and you can really surprise yourself quality wise.  

Listen to a wide variety (technology and price), and don’t forget ’bang for the buck’. For example, your friend may fall in love with exotic speakers, but find that he can’t hear much difference between expensive and adequate amplifiers with those speakers. Conclusion, valid for him: "Don’t spend much on amps".

That’s exactly where I was when I got started: I couldn’t hear the difference between budget DIY electronics and ARC. A year later, that changed, but in he mean time I had legendary speakers, Magnepan Tympani 1A, immensely suitable as an anchor around which to build..

Now I’m in pretty deep and still can’t hear much difference between interconnects - so my investment in these remains very low. It’s a valid option FOR ME. YMMV.

@mtbiker29 possibly the best advise here. It took me a few years to appreciate how important room treatments are.

And you can apply that philosophy to many components of your system. Years ago Linn's message was "a cheap cartridge on a Linn sounds better than a expensive cartridge one on a lesser turntable"

In other words understand and learn about each component you are planning to add to your system and the role they play in the sound reproduction!

Best of luck in your journey!

The questions worth asking of your friend is how old is he? Does he already have a collection of CD-Vinyl Albums? Which is the main Source the system intending to have?

Once this is on the table, the individual can be directed to receiving demo's of differing systems with such a source. This will help them home in on a sonic that has attraction to them, as well understand the costs required and aesthetic that can be had. This is not too bad a place to leave the starter blocks from.

Whew enough to write a book here!

Here’s some more:

1. Keep an open mind.

2. Music is a contextual experience, listen in as many different environments as you can 

3. Music is an emotional experience, let your ears and heart be connected without losing your head

4. Find what you like and do more of it; the field is changing so there are always more options

5. Buying used is an upgrade option, with experience.

6. Find trustworthy sources of information and be careful of scams in this field.



Both @johnread57 ​​​​@mrdecibel are spot on.

Speakers first, and then have him listen to the music he likes and enjoys already.

I'll explain why: First, speakers make more of a difference to newbie's then electronics. Second, a good friend of mine (whom I wanted to keep as a good friend), wanted to buy new speakers and said he found these amazing ones (brand not important for the story) and wanted me to listen to them.

I agreed they sounded amazing, but they were being demo'd using only classical music, which he never listened too. As soon as we put on his favorite music, they did not sound as good, a bit bland and the soundstage collapsed. He ended up with a different pair that brought life to the the music he listen to. He's still happy with them 6 years later. It also helped him pick up better electronics later.

Hope this helps. 

You don't need to be an expert in acoustics to get good sound from reasonable some audio magazines...and remember there's great sounding stuff out there these days that is not expensive and you should trust your ears.

*G* Everyone’s dishing good food for thought tonight....the only caveat I can offer is that it’s highly unlikely that his first foray into the fidelity field will find the flawless answer on his shelves....cabinet....’some means of suspension’...

But to quote S. Smiley.... "’s OK."

One has to have the ’bad experience’ to appreciate the good and the really superlative ones.

Don’t believe all that you hear ’once’ somewhere; like science, it needs to be you, in your space. Be willing to accept the difference(s)....much like a relationship....;) (At least, divorce on this plane will be hopefully cheaper...)

Don’t let Anyone tell you your taste in music is...’questionable’....

I leave this behind as an example... " what I do...."

Have fun, make a memory or so....

Awesome tips so far everyone! Appreciate everyone who has answered so far. There's quite a few basic tips that are popping up very frequently in the replies, which echo a lot of what I was thinking too, which is great!

It can definitely be an overwhelming hobby to jump into with little background knowledge (we've all been there at some point), but having a robust community such as this one to pick the brains of for tips, advice, and guidance is super helpful to eliminate some of the 'noise' and cut through some of the marketing shenanigans.

Look forward to reading more!

Listen, and I mean really listen - you'd be surprised how many people don't.

"I have a friend who is interested in putting together a system"

Not knowing much about your friend, it’s difficult to set priorities about what is important to them: Mac/PC? Dog/cat? Internal combustion/EV? Zappa/Hank Sr. Etc.

I would start by putting your friend in front of the most amazing system you’ve ever heard (within a reasonable commute from your home). This should create a strong emotional response (or, perhaps even loosing control of basic bodily functions) to illustrate what the the "ultimate system" looks and sounds like when it is finished. If the response is similar to the watching the first 12 minutes of any RomCom, perhaps he/she may want to pursue another hobby?

Second, I would make sure they have some "skin in the game." The pursuit of their system has to mean more them than it does to you. The more vested they are in the project, the more they will appreciate it. The more they appreciate it, the more they will enjoy it. And, the more enduring the hobby will be over their lifetime.

.......maybe to first learn the difference between ; advice and advise. In which you could actually do both here with your friend in order to help them build their system. Good luck and have fun doing it.   


You didn't mention a price range, that could certainly define any recommendations in the upgrade path. If the budget is $4,000, then a $2,000 DAC wouldn't be a good choice.

Listen, listen, listen go to friends homes to hear their systems, bring records or CDs you are familiar with. I would buy gently used as your dollar goes twice as far. Bring a note book so you remember what and why you like certain equipment. Enjoy yourself.


To spend what they are comfortable with but make sure they know that other than us audio-fools they can likely get 10 years out of their investment in listening - if they are careful to put together a system that isn’t strident sounding.

Take any recommendations with a huge grain of salt because 90% of people will parrot what they bought to justify to their ego that THEY made the right choice.

Measure their room. Despite what Paul Mcgowan said in a recent YouTube video, you can buy "too much" speaker for your room. If your room is 8’ x 10’ you don’t want LaScalas. Keep in mind that most speakers sound and image their best if pulled at least 18" from the wall if not more.

Go to a bricks and mortar store even if it requires a day (or two) trip to hear and compare speakers, amps, preamps, DACs, turntables (cartridges) and get a feeling for what trips their trigger. Do this BEFORE buying anything. You can read all the reviews you want and watch endless YouTube videos and ask people on this forum all the questions you want, but at the end of the day, hear something with your own ears.

No matter what, speakers should be your first priority. Some say source, but if the speakers can’t deliver, the source won’t matter. I’d say budget roughly 1/3rd of your total budget on them.

Buying great speakers that will scale with "eventual" better electronics is easier than vice versa.

Buy price commensurate items. As @vthokie83 said, if your system is in the $10K range, it would make little sense to buy a Mola Mola DAC to run through some ELAC DBR bookshelf speakers powered by a "cheap" ChiFi Class-D amp.

Most of all remember this is a hobby. It is supposed to be something that brings you joy and moves your soul. It isn’t supposed to stress you out. Have fun.

Oh, and keep in mind that you are human and will sometimes make a mistake. Don't let it kill your interest or joy in audio and music. Keep on keeping on. 

Understand the recordings sound quality of either an analog or digital recording dictates the audio systems potential. Don’t believe loudspeakers are the most important system component, everything matters. A dedicated 20 amp power line or 2 depending on the complexity of your system should be the starting point. Room acoustics have equal importance but should be your last task as you dial in your system. Look for components that have a low noise floor and lack a "mechanical" sound characteristic, even some budget gear can achieve this. Don’t try to integrate a home theater system with your 2 channel system it will almost always degrade the SQ. Lastly know what your biases are and what you like, because there is not one unanimously perfect audio system.