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.  






While I agree that your approach makes sense for those willing to spend considerable sums for higher end gear, I've taken the approach of reducing my spend, while increasing my satisfaction by buying older or more utilitarian gear, having  been dissatisfied with higher end / higher priced mainstream gear and no longer willing to pay the rapidly increasing prices of mainstream high end gear.

Examples of changes I've made in which I've saved money (or minimized spend) and increased my satisfaction:

  • Refurbished Altec Model 19's replaced and are more enjoyable than my previous Harbeth 40.2 Anni's
  • DeHavilland UltraVerve 3 preamp outperforms previous Aesthetix Calypso Signature
  • Roon Nucleus paired with Ifi Zen Stream as ROON endpoint sonically outperforms and is more dependable than previous Aurender N10
  • Duelund speaker cables outperform my previous Auditorium A23 speaker cables
  • Duelund power cables outperform my previous Cardas PC's
  • Quicksilver amps are utilitarian, with minimal expense towards aesthetics.   But they sound good and are reasonably priced.
  • I bought a used Weiss 202 DAC for $1750 , but it retailed for approx $7,300 and was predecessor to the current 501 DAC that retails for around $10K.

In summary... I don't disagree with your approach... but for those unwilling or unable to spend $15K for amplifiers and $15-25K on speakers, excellent systems can still be obtained for far less if done carefully.  In my case, I've increased my satisfaction by replacing higher priced gear with lower priced higher value and/or older gear that work well together.

Big fan of Quicksilver. That is exactly the type of gear you want to check out. No frills, excellent sound, reasonably priced. There are lots of companies offering great value , these and other forums are a good start but nothing like visiting a dealer.

Most important!!! Something I heard a while back by ghdprentice, and that is NEVER make a lateral move. Total waste of time and money and source of major disappointment. If a new component doesn’t wow you, it’s not an upgrade

"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."

Thanks for the advise to buy expensive, high quality equipment to get better sound.

That makes sense. Why didn't I think of that.

@ghdprentice, in general I agree with you. I'd offer a couple of supplementary observations. By and large, the companies that have staying power have it for a reason - in terms of the multidimensional quality of their products. They also tend to be fussy about their dealers and distributors. However, occasionally companies can lose their way - after the departure of a designer and or change of ownership - Classé is an example. Secondly, there are companies like Magico and YG that are now well established, but that are still relatively young. So I think we should be open to the potential of the new. My maxim is to never be an early adopter - in anything technological. But I appreciate the efforts of those people who are willing to take a punt on the latest and greatest.


There are certainly benefits and drawbacks to any approach, but I feel strongly that there is great benefit by gaining exposure to excellent audio gear. Breaking from the mass-fi mold offers a significant advantage in sound quality IMHO, regardless of how or why you accomplish it.

My journey was very different from yours, as purchasing expensive gear has never been a feasible approach for me. However I did have some unique opportunities to hear, be around, and get a lot of exposure to audio equipment that was well above my pay grade. That exposure gave me valuable insights to what audio gear could sound like, so for me is was a matter of confirming what I liked to hear from my system, then trying to replicate it by whatever means I could afford....whether buying used, building it from scratch, or modifying existing components.

I'd encourage anyone to find a way to hear as much high end audio gear as possible, get as familiar with it as possible, and let that experience guide your future selections.



@pdreher +1

My root to musical enjoyment (not nirvana) followed the same path as you describe. The last building block is my digital front end. I bought used Ayre for my preamp/amp needs and am trying to nail down my digital gear. After some info gleaned from this forum and a hard discussion with a friend last night I am rethinking spending $10-$15K on the digital. I think now I will keep it down to 1/3 of that number by buying used and giving up a little to save a lot. I now believe I will forego the Aurender A20 and go with a Aurilic Altair G2.1. I may buy new but I saw a used mint unit with 2TB drive recently sell for less than $4K. I had the G1.1 a while back and enjoyed it so I can settle for this without issue.

Some will scoff but yesterday I brought home a pristine pair of Klipsch Chorus ll speakers and inserted them into the system. I was taken aback by how much these improved the sound in my room. Even my wife made a comment. She was in the next room sewing and she poked her head in and said that the sound seemed "fuller" to her. I always loved the Klipsch house sound with tubes but never knew how good they could sound paired with the Ayre gear. I guess retirement has made me less critical.

Working with a good dealer can make a big difference.  I built my present system up over a 30 year span with a dealer who would take gear bought from him as trade-ins. Having a good relationship resulted in discounted prices and the occasional floor model at a great price. Eventually my system had reached a point where the diminishing marginal return on every dollar spent had reached my financial willingness to commit further. As much as I enjoy that system today, the journey getting there was a large part of the fun.


I have found buying used equipment has significantly increased the quality of equipment in my system.  Spending half retail on quality components allows me to leap ahead. This is a great hobby!  The quality of my system has allowed me to heat details in music never realized before. 


Also a reasonable strategy. I guess I should have put in that my objective has always been to assemble the highest performing system possible over time. You are correct, for some folks that is not the objective.

@tony1954 ”…Thanks for the advise to buy expensive, high quality equipment to get better sound.”

Well I didn’t exactly say that, there are very expensive non-mainstream components. But in general, that is true.


It may sound obvious… but if you read extensively in the forum, 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. 


So as someone trying to get their feet on the ground in this persuit, it can be anything but obvious.



Very true. Companies can loose there way… Nakamichi is a great example. Thst is why research is such an important part of the pursuit.



+1 Much of my equipment was purchased used in the first couple decades of me pursuing the high end. Great way to leverage your funds. 

True but there are giant killers that punch way above their weight class  I never got tired in the 70's of my Advents or my Hafler kit amp.   My dual mono Brit amps from Albarry to this day sound better than they should and held up close to even to a current Macintosh Integrated selling for 5k (even the shop thought so)  Also those storied companies you refer to often make lower end items with some of the DNA that do indeed hold up over time. But all kinds of really good stuff for small money from less recognized company  Schiit audio (love that name!) is one of many dozens making wire, electronics, speakers, streaming devices etc that work really really well and can provide decade's of pleasure if one chooses to be happy with what one has (obviously NOT what we audiophiles do)




Yes, working with a dealer can really help. For most of my time at this pursuit I have at least worked closely with a dealer. Often, they would not carry all the brands I was interested in. But, they can be invaluable.

The essence of pursuing the highest quality system you can get is navigating through a nearly infinite amount of equipment and possible combinations… only a very few that you could possibly experience… and all this equipment is surrounded be marketing hype, dubious reviews with lots of misinformation from folks with different values.


Navigating this complex space is difficult. Dealers can help. Also, why I made this post.


Unrelated, some folks enjoy churning equipment. Nothing wrong with that… the journey is the objective. Mine has never been that. Mine has always been get to the best well balance system possible and enjoy listening to music for the next decade.




Off and on throughout my time (50 years) at this pursuit I have tried “Giant Killers” and without exception they proved not to be. Either immediately, or within a short time I would start hearing their shortcomings, after that, I could not unhear it.

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.

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.



@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.


"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.

#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.

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,


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.

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...

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?




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...

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. 



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 ) 😉


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.

@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.

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  - 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.        

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.


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.


"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).

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... ...





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)

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.

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...


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.


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.



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..


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



We do not all swim in the same financial pool, yet loving great sound can be achieved without breaking the bank.  Being married to an Economist, we live by the rule, marginal cost versus marginal gain.

At a certain financial point, the cost exceeds the gain.  I am there myself.  I focus more now on things other than gear, i.e. quality source material, inexpensive room treatments, etc.

I am a proponent of Maggies and acquiring Mye stands and treating the space behind them provided an upgrade far in excess of their cost, by orders of magnitude.  This is an example of what can be accomplished once your gear is at a point where changes can be very costly.


The more money I've made, the less money I've spend on upgrades and finally not spending for upgrades even a notch except I do buy lots of music and currently released vinyl records. 

I think it’s true that you generally get what you pay for. But what you get by paying more may not always be something you want. This is what I’ve discovered in repeatedly being disappointed as I tried more exotic brands, and not just in audio. I could often notice improvements, but they were mostly unimportant to me. It’s good to know what you’re getting in to, and to some degree you have to step into the unknown and find out for yourself what’s on offer.

When I was younger I dreamed of cars with better acceleration, handling, and top speed. After stepping up a couple times I realized that was not what I actually wanted. As a young man I also wanted ultra-light high-end road bicycles. I went pretty much as high as you could go with that at one point, coming to the realization that my tastes were thoroughly satisfied with considerably less expensive bicycles. If I’m not a pro getting sponsored to ride an exotic bicycle, I’ve got no personal reason to ride something like that.