The two stages of audiophilia

1. Compulsively and fanatically build the best audio system you are able to and can afford.

2. Sit back, listen to MUSIC and enjoy your system.
@rvpiano -- Yeah, you've pegged me. I shopped like crazy and spent as much as I could get away with. I listen to the system all the time and enjoy the heck out of it. I'd rather read about all the stuff I should be obsessed with than actually fork over more bucks.
Pretty condensed list. (1) requires (2). Is your point that the "audiophilia" means that (1) must yield permanently and completely to (2) or it's not audiophilia? 
Works just fine until a friend stops over to tell you about his new....

Well don’t leave us hanging man! WHAT DID THE FRIEND BUY!   ;-)
Listening his " gear" qualities is good and necessary in the beginnings,,,,

But most never quit the beginings...They upgrade and go on listening to their gear new qualities in the SAME UNCHANGED room for the sake of comparison for sure.... Not always improvement tough but different each time...

Ad infinitum.....

Now some acoustically treat their room and control it the right way...( learn how to control also the mechanical and electrical embeddings)

After that, if the job is well done they never listen sounds so much than they listen to music....

Audiophilia become mostly a necessary past stage.... I dream myself to upgrade one day but without no more real urgency at all...Too busy with the new music....

Obsession to sounds is transformed in musical obsession...( After 7 years of sound quality obsession and listenings experiments each day almost)

If it is possible for me with an under 500 bucks system it is possible for all at any price....

I only repeat here the OP initial motive with my own experience....

My best to all....

« Acoustic is the sleeping princess, anything else are the working dwarves, now be the prince, kiss the sleeping princess» -Anonymus Me
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@rvpianola Ok. So point of post is "enjoy music." I can wrap my head around that. Good advice, along the lines of "mind the gap." ;-)

1. Compulsively and fanatically build the best audio system you are able to and can afford.

2. Sit back, listen to MUSIC and enjoy your system.    

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
1. Buy the best gear you can afford...

2. Listen and create the necessary acoustic controls for the room to accomodate your speakers ...

There is no step 3 here...

Step 3 exist for obsessed gear people with no knowledge of acoustic....

You dont need the BEST gear in the world and you dont want it at all, because it cost way too much...
You need the optimal price /sound quality ratio for your money...

And guess what? your system could be nearer than anything else very high cost  that you could ever imagine...Thanks to acoustic science....

It is my experience.....
1. Compulsively and fanatically build the best audio system you are able to and can afford.

2. Sit back, listen to MUSIC and enjoy your system.  

3. Tweek

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 without end 
Acoustic controls and treatment are not "tweaks"....

Tweaks are secondary facultative additions to improve a system...

Acoustic treatment and controls are fundamental, not secondary, and exceed in potential positive improvement almost any gear upgrade even the speakers sometimes...

I spoke here only of the most important embeddings controls  the acoustical one.... It will help also using the other 2....
In 30 years I haven’t made it past step 1.  I may need a 12 step program to get out of step 1.  
My first ten years or do were 1). Then a couple years of tweaking. Then 2). Over the decades I became much more orderly with 7 - 10 years of enjoyment, Then 1) as I could afford (on not afford as my partner would say) tweaking and enjoy for another 7 - 10 years. This has resulted in long, wonderful periods of audio bliss and maniacal upgrade cycles. Now retired with a better sounding and looking system than I though I could ever afford, I am very happy.
@ghdprentice stage three is necessary for stage 1 , becoming just another element of stage 1. We serve Davis Family - Pinot.

stage 3 make your own reference recordings…… Cat stops chasing tail….in exchange for chasing the dragon….
I agree.
Stage 1. Obsession with gearStage 2. Obsession with music.
Exit stage left.... (Rush fans in the house?)

Well said. It’s an observation, an advice and a philosophy in one simple sentence. The problem is, like Al Pacino in The Godfather part 4, every time we get out, they pull us right back in.  The siren never stop singing. We got to plug our ears. 

Did I hear that one right; facultative?

I am being deliberately facultative in my efforts to ameliorate my chronic condition of upgrade-itis.
Stage 4 ; Do you have a “ Tubes Rule “ Manley Java cup next to that Italian addiction satisfaction machine ?

Stage 5. how to fund that third Manley microphone……?
Got there I believe recently. Any further upgrade would just be too expensive for the improvement. System: Audiolab 6000 CDT, Denifrips Ares ii, Vincent Audio SA 31 MK / SP 331 MK and audio Physic Sitara 25's. Also use 2 x Definitive Technology sub cube 4000 subwoofers.
Got there I believe recently. Any further upgrade would just be too expensive for the improvement. System: Audiolab 6000 CDT, Denifrips Ares ii, Vincent Audio SA 31 MK / SP 331 MK and audio Physic Sitara 25's. Also use 2 x Definitive Technology super cube 4000 subwoofers.
i am somewhere between a family friend [ace musician] who hears all she needs from an ancient table radio] and your typical megabuck wealthy audiophile. 
Can’t is definitely the operative word… as in afford. But hey, whatever. 
Rule 1… see rule 10

Rule 10… return to rule 1. 
It never ends.
Stage 2: enlightenment.
After almost 50 years, I've hit stage 2 after downsizing from separates and big Maggies to a nice class D integrated and standmounts. Still enjoying vinyl, optical disks and streaming.
Didn't see it coming and it's so nice!
2. Sit back, listen to MUSIC and enjoy your system.

Listen to music?  Its a slippery slope my friends.  You don't wanna try that, there's no going back.
I probably will never finish changing my system. I love to try new things with my system. Also, Tech changes. IsoAcoustic/Townshend isolation, A Sound Smith cartridge that does not need a separate phono stage, materials like Carbon, Kevlar, Ceramics, and Beryllium to make lighter and stiffer drivers, and last but not least the KEF KC62 subwoofer that plays down to 11hz in a box smaller than a one foot cube. It should be physically impossible, but it’s out there. If you think you are done with your system it’s because we have missed to many audio shows. This store in the Chicagoland area lets you try before you buy:
We all need to get out of our audio caves and see what’s new. 
I got off the "merry go round" and bought Sugden class A and Tannoys...I have been living happily ever after desire to trade up or trade in me, it sounds wonderful. My mmf-7.3 turntable (walnut) with Ortofon 2m bronze is also wonderful. Yes, not the most expensive tt out there, but it sounds great to me. I think I can live with what I got for a very long time. I spend my money nowadays on more Lp's and Cd's, even though I already own more than a reasonable amount, lol. 
Don’t forget the terminal stage, total deafness, but my system looks really great and it mine! This is akin to the garage queen stage of car collecting.
1 understand what makes sound better
2 buy equipment from a  manufacturer who builds components that can reproduce the music better
3 sit back and be wowed by the music reproduction of your system

Happy Listening.
Two stages?

1) spend as much as you can building the system of your dreams.

2) read about how to get great sound out of your system and room.

3) ...but completely ignore everything you’ve read about how important the room is.

4) thinking that all that money spent with shades of improvement means you just didn’t spend enough on equipment.

5) accidentally finding out how important the room is by moving into a much older house.

6) quietly knowing it’s all about the music but still running toward better sound.

7) acceptance: enjoying your system, your room, your now aging ears and your music collection for what they are: imperfect but pretty damn good and immensely enjoyable.
Reminds me of the old joke, “The four stages of a musician’s career”:

1. “Who’s rvpiano?”

2. “Get me rvpiano!”

3. “Get me someone who sounds like    rvpiano!”

4. “Who’s rvpiano?”
Currently on stage 2 , unless I hit the lottery. I`m enjoying my system with occasional upgrades on the digital side.
Hopefully exiting Stage 1 soon, now that I’ve ordered a new system. That said, it’s fun as hell incessantly researching and geeking out on the gear!
Agree with audioguy and a similar system esoteric class a integrated with Fyne audio speakers.  Over 30’years from Polk to audio physic to Martin logans(now relegated to ht).  And sold my separates during a downsize.  No more slam, prat soundstage. Definition.  Back to musical reproduction and done with audiophile anything
I look at the two stages different.Stage one is the love of music and you will do any for that love. Buy a system you feel will help nurture that love of music. Spend all your free time loving that music. Always looking for new artists to grow and deepen that love. It is a journey that can be very fulfilling.Stage two is the down fall that too many fall into. Their love of music turns to their love of their system. This sends them it to a tail spin that they can never get out of. Chasing new equipment based on a post from someone who does not own the piece but gives an opinion. Thinking they are hearing things they really can’t hear. Tweaking things just to tweak, buying new because the technology has to be better it’s newer right?
Their only hope is that they come full circle and rediscover the love of music and remember that system love is that high maintenance girlfriend who you can never satisfy and will dump you in a heartbeat!