Has anyone made the jump to $uper High end and were disappointed?

I'm talking $50,000 and higher amps, speakers, cablesetc. I know there is excellent sounding gear from $100 to infinity (much is system dependent, room, etc). However, just curious if someone made the leap and deep down realize the "expected" sound quality jump was not as much as the price jump. Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to make that jump. However, looking at another forum's thread about price point of diminishing returns got me wondering if anyone had buyers remorse. It's not easy to just "flip" a super high priced component. 
I think there is indeed a point of zero marginal returns, and that point is lower than many here are willing to accept. The only component that really makes a big impact on the sound and is also expensive is the speakers (and their interaction with the room). I am not the only one who will argue that Quad electrostats are the best money can by, although probably best extended with a pair of good subwoofers and room equalization (the room is the elephant in the room). Alternatively, and particularly if you need more dynamics in a large room, the Harbeth M40.2 is in that same league. Both are also highly regarded by professionals.
Contrary to what many here believe there is no evidence that ultra expensive electronics have anything to add (let alone cables). Even very affordable amplifiers have a S/N ratio, distortion and flat frequency response that is demonstrably better than human hearing acuity. In fact, quite a few boutique electronics may be expensive but measure a lot worse than affordable mainstream products (see the sometimes horrifying measurements in Stereophile of exotically priced gear). And if you do not want to believe measurements, there is also the listening test, if done properly, with carefully matched levels (within 0.2 dB and hence with amp output measured with a good Volt meter, instant switchover, and double blind). Proper methodology is crucial here, because expectation bias can all to easily creep into casual observations, however well intended. Such tests too demonstrate the folly of spending big money on electronics.
I know this site thrives on the restless illusion that somehow magic improvements are possible and require constant upgrading, but the sciences to understand this are psychology and busines economics (how do I persuade unsuspecting consumers in a market of monopolistic competition between homogeneous goods), and not physics.
Well said willemj! I agree entirely with your comments, I am sure there are a lot of people who do not. It will be interesting to hear from the folks who buy high end (read, ridiculously expensive) cables, power conditioners and similar tweaks. However, each to their own, whatever makes you happy.
No regrets. 90% of my expense is the speakers. I agree that even entry level electronics is quite good. My setup sounds great with a mere iPhone plugged in.

As far as speakers, mine are most alike to Quad but with rock and roll dynamics. Designed with the Quad in mind or as a reference.

Harbeth are really nice in the mids too (one of my favourite mid ranges) but they don't quite hang together at high levels and the thin walled cabinets tend to have some resonances in the lower frequencies.
The crux of the matter will be if they are willing to submit their casual observations to the rigours of scientific methodology. I do not doubt that they genuinely believe that they hear the differences that they hear. The question is whether they can make this stick under controlled conditions. I once did submit myself to such a test, believing I would be able to distinguish between some quality but not exotic amplifiers. Just like everybody else, I could not. There have been many such tests, and they all produced the same result. It is a sobering thought, but also a cheerful one: good quality audio is affordable for many. Socially and culturally we can only rejoice in that.
The only expensive component is the speakers, and the reason is not hard to fathom: they operate on the interface between the electrical and the mechanical, and that is far more complex than designing a straight wire with gain. Just look at the measurements for distortion and frequency response and compare those with the same measurements for electronics.
Moreover, even good speakers have to play in imperfect rooms. So compare their response in an anechoic chamber or the open air, with their in room response, and you can see that you have your job cut out.
Art Dudley discusses this same subject in his "Listening" article in the latest STEREOPHILE issue I received yesterday. Check it out.
I just read a post on another forum, "Jeff's Getting a New Stereo". The Jeff is Jeffrey Fritz Editor-in-Chief of SoundStage. After several years he's looking to downgrade from a seriously expensive system. Don't get me wrong, by any standards he's still considering expensive components. The fact that he's concluded that the ultra expensive system isn't worth it, sure makes me think!

@Aberyclark > curious if someone made the leap and deep down realize the "expected" sound quality jump was not as much as the price jump.
> buyers remorse.
> It's not easy to just "flip" a super high priced component.

Blindjim > nice thread. Hope it gets tons of feedback. I’m wondering how many ultra high end flippers will chime in to begin with?

Yep. At those costs, flipping the stuff is a whole other bag of worms I’m sure. I’d need a big bottle of Tums.

I think an easier observation of ultra gear sticking around or leaving quickly are inside reviewers comments. Perennially I see reviewers say, “this ain’t leaving here!!” a few months later or later that same year, that piece is no longer listed as side bar gear and quite often no explanation of why it disappeared is written..

Superb! Gotta have it! Got it! Gone!

I resisted saying ‘wait! What? Purely for prejudicial reasons.

Its all exceptionally fascinating. Why folks migrate about on mega buck levels with audio equipment. I’d vote it is from boredom or ego. Mostly. Then for excellence, albeit pursuing excellence gets tabbed as the why of it when openly confronted.

It also sounds better than, ‘Because I could”.

Even that ‘threshold of or for diminishing returns’ is a subjectively floating point of entry. Or exodus.

@Willemj > The only component that really makes a big impact on the sound and is also expensive is the speakers
> Contrary to what many here believe there is no evidence that ultra expensive electronics have anything to add (let alone cables
> if you do not want to believe measurements, there is also the listening test

Blindjim > speakers are the ticket! Nope. Just part of it.

I’ll take your second inference to mean moving from one $50K amp to another similarly or higher priced amp sheds no greater light into the performance. Experience. Or listening event and as you said, many mass produced low or mid fi amps possess numbers and measure as well or better than the occasional first two years of college education or cabin near a lake costing, amps, sources, etc.

It begs the question then why then are so many systems with decent or incredible speakers not using entry level amps?

‘there is ‘also’ the listening test.

I apologize, but please, tell me exactly who is buying this or that regardless of price using something other than their ears as the final arbiter? Well, maybe their spouse’ opinion too.

I’ve been to my share of retail audio houses and not yet have I seen anyone dragging in an oscilloscope, meters, microphones and measuring tapes. Not one time.

“Also”? sorry. Try ONLY.

15 years ago I read here everything matters. I heard too, if you can hear a difference and are willing to pay for that difference, then you should.

Those statements are the best fundamental rules for achieving system synergy I’ve yet found. I would add as you said the synergy between speaker and room is of high priority, physically and acoustically, BUT it is not all of it. I just could not forgoe that bit on measuring being more important than listening, or associated gear not being AS instrumental to the end result, or we’d all be using X boxes and such to drive speakers.

Albeit I’m most curious as to those who the OP begs input from to add in their perspectives on where diminishing returns are in the uber high ranges of audio and just how much more was obtained or lost in this or that migration of gear?

I used to work in a recording studio, and I'll say that for the most part, yes the really high-end gear does make a difference, and most of the time that difference can be heard in blind, controlled A/B/X tests.

However---this comes with a huge caveat. In the studio context (at least in my experience), at least as much money went into designing and building the room as anything else. Non-parallel walls, bass traps, low reverberation, super-quiet air conditioning, etc. After that, as other people have said, speakers are probably where you hear the dollars most easily (and, in the studio context, microphones).

Second big caveat---although I said we could often hear differences in A/B/X tests, these differences were often *really* small and subtle, and frankly not anything I would ever pay for in a home situation. I think you hit the point of diminishing returns fairly early, actually, and while you can go on and pay 20x as much money for another 1% improvement (and the 1% is real), is it worth it? In the end it's up to you, of course.
To follow up on the last two posts. My recent upgrades have been cheap and made a real difference. The first was when I had moved from my Quad els57 speakers to the less efficient 2805’s and in a rather larger room, and my old 2x45 watt Quad sounded strained at higher levels. So I replaced it with a completely refurbished 2x140 watt Quad 606-2 bought for about 350 dollars. At low levels there was no difference, but at higher levels the sound was obviously cleaner and less strained. The second upgrade was when I was disappointed with my new B&W PV1d subwoofer: it sounded woolly and did not integrate well with the electrostats. So I added a cheap DSPeaker Antimode 8033 room eq unit, and the woolly slow bass suddenly became tight and clean, and perfectly integrated. Finally, last week, I decided the Harbeth P3ESR speakers of my desktop system in the study were suffering from too much bass boost from the desk. I measured them with REW, created an equalization file, and downloaded that into the Equalizer APO/Peace software in the desktop computer that I use as a source in the study (it is on anyway so I have no need for anything else as a source - rest of the system: ODAC usb dac, Emotiva Control Freak volume control and a refurbished 2x100 watt Quad 405-2 power amplifier). Here, the only outlay for obviously cleaner sound was some time spent, and the result was far greater than I could have achieved with better electronics, let alone cables.
You have to know who you are.   If you drive a Honda - perfectly great car, but then buy a Porsche,....you have to provide additional money for maintenance, additional care in parking (setup), etc.  If you are willing to provide the additions, appreciate the added performance and not care about the additional efforts.....then it will  be worth it.  If you want music in your home and not care if the second violins are using spiccato bowings or pizzicato, then don't look for zebras when horses are roaming wild in Arizona.  ...find your own happiness.
However, the argument here is whether these high priced units are actually Porsches or just Honda’s in fancy dress, or even Lada’s for that matter. To be precise, the latter is actually my view on a lot of audiophile gear (esp. vinyl or tubes).
Back when I was younger, I thought McIntosh was the pinnacle of audio. I only read Stereo Review then and was quite happy with my Pioneer-Teac-Akai system. Now, with the web and reading other various publications, McIntosh just seems to be in the middle, abeit still expensive to most.
I doubt that most who spent mega bucks for a system will want to admit it wasn’t worth it. I remover my first and last foray into very expensive upgrades... 1979 (for that time) . Since my favorite music at the time was rock, the high end equipment just magnified the crappy mixing and awful recordings. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life listening to Jazz at the Pawnshop so I could justify the cost of my system. I was done at an early age chasing the holy grail.
I doubt that most who spent mega bucks for a system will want to admit it wasn’t worth it. I remover my first and last foray into very expensive upgrades... 1979 (for that time) . Since my favorite music at the time was rock, the high end equipment just magnified the crappy mixing and awful recordings. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life listening to Jazz at the Pawnshop so I could justify the cost of my system. I was done at an early age chasing the holy grail.
why waste money on Quads & Harbeth when a good $50,000 power cord and some oxytocin injections will make it much bettah!
The $uper high end is for snob appeal, from the owners rich audio friends!

True high end sound is still not cheap, and requires experience, and  knowing what good natural sound is.
Frankly I find that 9 out of 10 of the six figure systems I hear (mostly at shows) make me turn tail and walk straight out of the room. And I haven't heard a system at a dealer that I rated more than "Meh" (and i work with some of the most highly regarded dealers there are) but when I get home to my system (which you can inspect in my virtual system listing) it's a completely different matter -- and also an experience I can and do constantly improve (which is what makes this hobby fun)

So what does this mean? It means that "good sound" is an intensely personal affair, and that also it's likely that we all tune our ears to appreciate a certain acoustic aesthetic. Think about the times when you've made a change and thought at first "I hate it" but once you listen through the removal of some prior tonal or temporal distortion you realize that the thing you're missing is just a coloration.

So is there a point of diminishing returns? I've not found it. But careful system balance is the key -- and simply dropping gobs of money on one or more components is not likely to give you the results you want. Careful balancing and tuning of all components, including much time and effort with the room and accessories is essential. There's one NYC based dealer who I won't name who constantly posts pictures of six figure systems installed in acoustically bare, sterile rooms - I hate to think how bad these things sound

If you can take the time to visit and listen to one of those who post here that have had long established systems (Mike Lavigne, Albert Porter etc) then you will gain an appreciation for what we are striving for ... and anyone in the Portland area is welcome to reach out to me to see if they think what I'm listening too is worth it
If I had the money, I would spend whatever I thought was necessary to get the sound that I prefer. I would do it for me, just as I suspect most people do. This is a passion that most of us enjoy on our own, with family, or other audiophiles. I submit very little do it to show off.
Above a certain level which varies from person to person, the differences become mostly a matter of taste as opposed to the actual sound quality. I know I am far from reaching that point since I can still tell when I hear a system that sounds much better than mine. And by better I don't mean just different, I mean I hear more of the music content that was absent in my home system. I think that's part of the fun of being in the audio hobby, you always look for something that makes the music more pleasurable to listen. Of course price plays a key role but for me its the incremental improvements that are most satisfying. For example, I changed a couple of the tubes in my moderately priced preamp last week and the $40 purchase was incredibly satisfying.
Nothing improves a system more than well recorded content. It could be a $500 system or 6 figures. Especially nowadays when proper recording studios are used less and less ( im talking mostly rock/pop) many expect that the $7000 cable will bring sonic bliss with recordings recorded with sm57’s in an apartment or house using protools. Also, many expect a crappy sounding hit album will somehow sound less crappy with mqa or dsd ( not taking a total remix into account).

That’s why I like Zu’s attitude at gear shows. ZU is generally cranking out fun music from all over without focusing on the “audiophile” aspect.

So, as I upgrade, my focus is on the “enjoyment” aspect of the components. Not so much on the scientific part ( although i do understand that matching components is critical).

The main reason I love my new Nuforce amp (it was ordered an in between amp...but loved it so much i decided to kerp it around longer) is it makes me want to listen and it makes listening fun. 
@aberyclark I could just as well say "nothing will bring out the virtues of badly recorded content as much as a great system"

One of the benefits of the sorts of improvements I was talking about is hearing the qualities of recordings you'd previously dismissed -- I discussed this point at length in a recent thread on considering a high end turntable investment
No, $7000 cable will not bring sonic bliss, $10k and more has a slight chance.
Two comments:
I went to my first audio show last year, the Cap Audio Fest, at one point I turned to my friend and said I was being totally influenced by my reaction to the music being played, liking the rooms where I liked the music. So absolutely recordings make a big difference.

If you are really spending $50k on individual components then I really hope you are working with a very good honest dealer. One that will give good advice and let you audition gear at home as well as ancillaries. To me that is a good way to build a system and avoid buyers remorse, at any price point.
$50k would not be enough for speakers and monoblocks, not sure about turntable, maybe.
spend big money on a new listening room or new house

build it on top of a big block of granite too
I like Randy's idea.   Put on top of 1/2 dome in Yosemite.  Now that, would be the ultimate high end. 
It takes years to fine tune a high end system.   You don't just open the boxes, hook them together and think you've got it...you don't
The more one upgrades....the more one upgrades.

I always wonder, even after a new component I like, how can I take the improvement further
It's a never ending proccess, what's wrong with it, anyway ? Unless it becomes a clear obsession - nothing, I guess.

Don't agree about electronics, although I applaud your skepticism and insistence on rational thought and experiment.

First, I think that you will agree that more processing tends to sound worse. So the first thing I did after buying my Quad ESL's was to build amplifiers with limited rails, which could not drive the speakers into protection. I was therefore free to remove protection circuits. That made a difference, and I'm sure that you can see why. I concluded that electronics can make a difference.

Second, I have demonstrated (single blind, A/B) to a skeptical engineer, that ONE resistor can make a clearly audible difference. I used a discrete, single active resistor, gain control (not a ladder) to control preamp volume, and thus to compare five different types of resistor. The engineer's response was, "Now tell me what you really did." He could not believe that the differences he was hearing were all due to different types of metal film resistor, in one location (gain control).

My wife, who sings in a choir, agreed (single blind, A/B).

Differences were subtle between 4 of the 5, but the worst sound was actively unpleasant. One resistor, mind. Nude Vishay was best, no-name Oriental was second. That led me to standardize on nude Vishay's - every low power resistor in my amps is now Vishay, and also in my new phono/preamp.

For the record, the system was built around one pair of 2805's and one pair of 2905's angled at one radian, all running the Vanderveen transformers with circuit protection disabled (since changed to all 2905's). Amplifiers were DIY solid state mono blocks (since improved). Also for the record, I hold advanced degrees in math and science, and am thoroughly acquainted with the techniques of experimental psychology.

This is a journey for sure, and you need to find the synergy between components. I do feel that your speakers and your source are extremely important.
I've owned my pair of Quad ESLs since 1973. They were eventually put to the side (and eventually into crates) while I used the Crosby modified 63, which was, overall, a better performing speaker in terms of bass, dynamics and dispersion, but they lacked the utter coherence of the original in my estimation. I only recently got my original pair restored by Kent McCollum, and they sound wonderful, with a pair of old Quad II amps, restored and re-glassed with GEC KT 66s. I don't have fancy wire, and in fact, have still not finished the turntable, so am using a CD player as a source-not a particularly notable one. The Quad based system is a joy to listen to.
But, there are many other things I own that I also like:
-my Lamm ML2s are wonderful with horns. I will probably not part with them.
-my Kuzma XL and Airline arm is now in its 11th year of service and I'll still thrilled with its performance. I did have to buy a pricey isolation platform for its new location, but it was worth it.
There are a number of other components I have owned over the years that I regard as enduring and bring me joy.
The point of diminishing returns is a very personal one and cannot be measured by any objective criteria in my estimation. Now that I'm past my big earning years, I'm more sensitive to value for the dollar but never felt compelled to upgrade for the sake of the latest and greatest. 
I'm finally looking at digital sources, to give me more access to music, despite my life long commitment to the LP.  
For the last number of years, most of my money relating to hi-fi has gone into records, not gear. I'm also enjoying it more than ever. 

Ok Ill bite.

I don’t think my system is super high end, compared to others on Audio Aficionado, but I’ll give you insight into some of the pieces I have. Because this thread is asking about pricing, I will include prices as well.

Speakers: BW 802D3 ($22K, paid $18K)
Source: Emm Labs DAC2x ($15K, paid $5K) + Emm Labs TSDx Transport ($15K, paid $5K)
Preamp: Cary SLP-05 tube preamp ($7.5K, paid $3.75K)
Amp: Boulder 2060 stereo ($46K, paid $17K)
Speakerwires: Audioquest WEL 8ft single/biwire ($31K, paid $5K)
Power Cords: Audioquest NRG-WEL 3ft x2 ($4K each, paid $1K each)
XLR: Still need to upgrade
Power conditioner: PS Audio P5 Regenerator ($3.5K, paid $650)

I have a dedicated and treated room, just for stereo.  I have clouds hanging from the ceilings and treatments on all 4 walls.  I have dedicated circuits for the room as well. 

Based on my experience, there are certainly certain components that actually made a difference for me. Is my system perfect? I don’t think so. Some pieces are still in flux and will likely be changed as time goes on.

2 things that will probably not be changed? The Boulder amp and the Audioquest WEL units.

Is there diminishing returns? I believe so. But I am pretty happy with the performance I got from the units.

I thought the difference going from my old Cary 306 SACD to the Emm Lab units was excellent, more real, more analog, yadda yadda... IMO, it was worth the $8K delta that I paid. Would I pay $30K for the 2 units? No.

The difference going from my previous Classe M600 delta monoblocks and the Cary 211FE tube monoblocks to the Boulder 2060 was very significant. To me, it was a no brainer coming from those $8K (used, paid) units to the $17K Boulder... the difference was very significant and was worth the delta in price again.... would I pay $46K for the Boulders? No.

The difference going from my old wire regular 12g OFC and Satori units to the AQ WEL was very significant. Definitely worth the $5K I paid... would I pay the retail of $31K? No way.

So, yes, diminishing returns are in play here, but I feel like the units I have which can be considered to be pretty high end, do display improvement over lesser units in my room and to my ears, would I pay the exhorbitant and racket pricing? No way.

But to me, for what I paid, it was worth it.

But yes, someone said it earlier in the thread... you gotta be very careful with these upper end purchases, moving them or flipping them is not easy as the market is much thinner as you move up. Some people have so much money they would rather buy new and have dealer support than save some cash and pay used.

Just my 2 cents.
The point of diminishing return is a moving target. Depends on the amount of discretionary funds available, and knowledge base acquired by the person developing the system. 

Those with a deep pocket and a shallow knowledge base are more likely to end up with an expensive system that could easily be bested by a lessor expensive one.

A large component of the knowledge base required is to understand what one's own preferences are. This takes exposure to many systems.

My discretionary funds are limited, my knowledge base not near the point of diminishing return.
Re: Law of Diminishing Returns
Just to chime in on the subject of diminishing returns, I don’t actually believe there is a Law of diminishing returns for audio, there’s no hyperbolic curve, or some artificial ceiling that cannot be surpassed. "I don't think it's worth spending twice as much to get only the last 5%." 😀 What is required is thinking outside the box. Audio is an art as much as a science.

There is also the principle of "stove piping" involved here I suspect, where audiophiles develop their systems more or less in a vacuum. And each person reaches certain conclusions based on what he finds out. Each one declares he has found Audio Nirvana, yet when an independent observer listeners to those systems he discovers that they don’t sound nearly as fabulous as their owners claim or believe. In fact, by and large, they frequently sound quite bland and generic and distorted. You know, kind of like those big expensive systems like at big audio shows.

"Wow! What a view, I never thought I’d be on the summit of Everest!"
"Calm down, were only at Base Camp. We’re only half way up."

Yer a stove piper
Stove piper, stove piper, stove piper, stove
Stove piper, stove piper, stove piper, stove

Another thing I want to bring up is there is typically a dissonance between system improvement and musical enjoyment.

And this has financial ramifications also.

Yes you can buy the best amp and you might have a better soundstage and imaging, but does it actually get you to listen to
more music longer and more frequently?  Or is it just another data point you are trying to reach in systematic improvements?

Sometimes I have to catch myself, wait, I'm spending 17k on an amp.... Am
i gonna be listening to that much more music?
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while I have heard less expensive systems that sound great and expensive systems that sounded very not great, very expensive systems that were very well matched, both to equipment and room, sounded way better by far...
@jl35 exactly, this is a game of pairing equipment and rooms. I could spend 10k on speakers and power them with the best possible amps, drop them in a 10x10 room, and be underwhelmed because the room is just too pressurized.

The key is to design a system that you ENJOY listening to, within the environment's constraints. We can treat rooms to help improve those constraints, but they are still there.
Some time ago I used to go to various shows, where I could listen to stuff I never will be able to afford. Some of sounded amazing and you wanted to sell your kidney, some not so much. But in general dcs, MBL, Lamm, Focal Utopia, etc sounded spectacular in their mega-buck setups, so if you have $$$ and proper room treatment, why not.. It is a hobby at the end... At the end it is not how it sounds, but how do you feel it sounds and how you enjoy the music.
PS there was only high-end brand which sounded for my ears offensively, Walmart stereo bad every time I heard it - 47 labs reference series. And yet many audiophiles love and swear by them... go figure.
TOO MANY variables influence sound production. However to me the most important involve the original source material (CD Vinyl DVD etc), understanding your room acoustics, the quality of your speakers (they are the main transducers after all, spend your money here). Good ones are easy to pick out. Also a good amp and preamp. I say good because
amps long ago reached the "start of the art". However it should match your speakers well and you should LIKE the sound.  Finally if you are into vinyl a decent turntable and especially a first rate cartridge are big factors in how well vinyl will sound.  
 You really need to play around with speaker placement to get the best sound in a given room. Acoustical engineers will always tell you that in setting up a theater sound analysis is paramount.

Personally I think that an excellent system can be had for far less than the super high end and that the law of diminishing returns
sets in fast after you spend $30,000 for speakers, amp/preamp and
input devices. 

One last thing, if you have poor cables or your power is of questionable quality you will never be happy in my opinion.

Finally, many of us are a bit obsessive and consequently are never
quite happy with our systems. That's OK but the industry counts
on that personalty trait to sell the next big thing. So most of all just ENJOY THE MUSIC.

It’s true that there are a lot of variables. But variables CAN be controlled. Time of day, day of week, the weather ⛈ sunspot activity 🌞 humidity, whatever. You change ONLY ONE VARIABLE AT A TIME. Then you will know what causes the change - the one variable you changed. Hel-loo! It ain’t necessarily easy. Nobody promised you a rose garden. People climb Everest all the time. 🏔 Even though it’s not easy. Audiophiles don't even know what ALL the variables even are, for crying out loud. 😫  In order to progress you kind of have to know WHERE you are and WHERE you want to go. AND how to get there. That really is the key. 🗝 Otherwise, you’re just shooting blanks in the dark. 🔫

People don’t really seem to know where they are on the overall curve of performance or what is really possible. I know what you’re thinking: "but what about live unamplified sound?" As far as knowing where to go next they’re apparently pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place. As I posted earlier everyone is stove piping. 🏭 Everyone reaches different conclusions. Stove piping, stove piping, stove piping, stove! Yeah!

What @geoffkait  calls "stove piping" I, and others, call trusting our ears. It's worth a try.
People with the means to afford living voice vox olympian speakers and comparable gear also have the means to discard such electronics (as a tax write off, of course) and simply buy whatever else is on their mind at any particular time. Also, not likely they contribute in writing or reading to audiogon forum posts.
jond wrote,

"What @geoffkait calls "stove piping" I, and others, call trusting our ears."

Whoa! Hey, it's not nice to put words in someone's mouth. Stove piping means nothing of the sort. Stove piping is an Intel expression that refers to the problem that arises when multiple organizations and multiple individuals/sources come to different and contradictory conclusions regarding political situations, military actions required, probable actions/motives of individuals or states, etc. Stove piping is an undesirable situation that arises because of lack of coordination and lack of oversight. This is what happens in the audio hobby, too. It's very disorganized. It then becomes a game of, who do you believe? Follow?

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@geoffkait Understood and sorry if I put words in your mouth. I guess my point was believe yourself. And your ears.