Devotion to gear, pros and cons.

spiritofmusic

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Guys and gals, another day another thread.
This one is inspired by Microstrip's and Al M's responses to a Lampi thread, and esp ongoing heated arguments I have w/non sentimentalists on this forum.
After a lifetime of being inspired by music, 30 years of being interested in this hobby (from the days of Linn/Naim UK dominance in the pre-cd 80's), and 20 years of upgrading, I've pretty much got to a point that I'm REALLY content with.
My digital itch finally got scratched by my Eera Tentation cdp purchase in 2013, after spending 30 years dissing the medium.
My pro analog stance has veered into digital-like accuracy and neutrality w/a rim drive tt/air bearing linear arm Trans Fi Salvation/Terminator front end, hence meeting in the middle w/my Eera cdp.
My move from bog standard ss to Hovland tube/ss, to Audion all tubes, to Nat Audio 211s SETs 75W/ch has got me to a point of ss-like power/grip w/the texture and transparency of tubes.
My move finally to Zu Audio Definitions 4 spkrs w/no x'over, full range drivers at 101dB/1m eff has allowed a brilliant synergy w/the Nats, and recent Duelunds and Lundahls in-house mods to the Zus is moving them a massive step fwd into what makes panels and horns so addictive.
Just as critically, going fully into Entreq grounding, Westwick 8kVA balanced power, Sablon Reservas cbls w/US plugs, semi dedicated lines, Symposium Acoustics Isis isolation and tentative Shun Mook vibration control, has maxxed these gear changes more imho then spending a fortune ripping up the blueprint and starting from scratch.
OK- big preamble - this isn't meant to be a beauty pageant for my gear, more background as to where I am.
My contention is that I have a lot of devotion to this gear, but those non sentimentalists in the hobby feel this is an irrational attitude. Drop the love affair, view purchases/choices/upgrading purely unemotionally, and better choices can be made.
Relevant to me because out of left field, a US based set of horns has homed onto my horizon, and I am deliberating whether ditching a piece of gear I've always felt v.connected to (the Zus) is right, esp since recent changes have really made them sing, and this purchase is full of potentaial pitfalls (no home trial for a $40k pair of spkrs for starters).
For me, I'm firmly in the camp of finding gear that works/synergises, not dumping it for the sake of upgrading, work on system tweaks and get the very most out of it. Non sentimentalists say just drop the devotion, drop the gear when indicated.
My next journey will be more Shun Mooking, and room acoustics after my house move next yr.
Or these horns...
 

PeterA

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Interesting thread topic. Is the guy who swaps a lot of gear more devoted to gear than the guy who rarely changes his equipment? I think an argument can be made for either.

Gear, and how it performs in our rooms, is an essential part of the hobby. If it were not, we would simply be music lovers and not audiophiles. We want to learn about the hobby and improve the sound of our systems, so that we can be more emotionally connected to our music.

In my small Boston-based audiophile group, we have a broad array of guys. Two are digital only, one is analog only, and two listen to both formats. One guy buys a lot of new gear, three of us make slow, deliberate gear changes, and one of us hardly ever changes gear, being extremely satisfied with the equipment that he has had for many years.

The interesting thing is that we are all in a continuous search for better and better sound. Two of us play instruments and we all listen to a lot of live music for our reference. I think we are all audiophiles who are devoted to our gear. Here is how I would describe the members of this group:

1. The Gear Swapper: He buys a lot of gear, has a lot of fun trying new stuff, and in the process, is getting better and better sound. In fact, he owns the best sounding system that I have ever heard. He also buys an incredible number of LPs and digital music. He is devoted to gear in the sense that he likes to try lots of new stuff to learn how specific components sound. As his friends, we all benefit from hearing the different iterations of his system. The pros are that he has more first hand experience with more gear in his own system than many other audiophiles. The cons are that there is a cost involved, system instability, and there is always the suspicion that there is something better out there.

2. The DIYer: He builds his own crossovers, installs different drivers, modifies electronics, adds noise shields, etc. He knows science and applies this knowledge and interest in tweaking his system for ever improving sound. The pros are the satisfaction from doing it himself, saving money and learning in the process. I don't know of any cons.

3. The Digital correction and measurement guy: He builds his own speakers, measures his room, is very computer savvy, and plays in the digital realm with room correction for a response curve that sounds the most real to him. He designs user/music interfaces. The pros are again the satisfaction and cost savings of doing it himself and the learning of new technologies. I can't think of any cons.

4. The Vintage Sounds Great guy: He rarely changes gear. He has a combination of old and newer equipment and he knows what he likes. Lately, he has been experimenting with room acoustics in a serious way. He is improving the sound of his room which helps his system sound its best. There is incredible stability in this system and he continues to find ways to refine and improve the sound. The pros are stability, satisfaction, and cost savings. I can't think of any cons.

5. The Analog Adjuster: He continuously tweaks his arm/cartridge/phono settings to optimize his analog. VTA is adjusted for different LPs. Record cleaning is a ritual. He has an industrial air compressor in his living room for his isolation platform. At this point, his gear rarely changes and when it does, he upgrades within his chosen brands. The pros are stability and satisfaction. The cons are a restricted selection of music only on vinyl and the time it takes to adjust the analog rig.

These audiophiles' WBF monikers are Al M., Ack, MadFloyd, Aljordan and PeterA. In our own ways we all love the gear we use and are quite passionate about the decisions we have made. But we are also continuously looking for ways to improve our systems and consequentially, our enjoyment of our music. These improvements come in varying degrees and in different ways, but do indeed come.

Devotion to gear can take many forms. Active involvement with the gear, or our systems and rooms, is what makes us audiophiles, and not just music lovers. Did I forget to mention, this Boston group also reads forums, but most importantly, we get together to listen. We also communicate, via email and phone, about what we are learning from our systems in the hopes that we can all improve our sound.
 

spiritofmusic

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That's a really interesting analysis, Peter. I'm afraid in the UK there's not such a tradition for audiophile clubs as such, usually intermittent contact with new and old people who certainly can provide context and different experiences.
I have noticed that as I find a piece of equipment that really works, I'm much more reluctant to try new stuff, and find I have to spend multiples of the same amount to effect any meaningful impvt. I'm getting better at choosing. So in the late 90s/early 2000s, I ran thru 3-4 tts/arms/carts/phonos/cdp's EACH, getting disillusioned w/the sound reasonably quickly, but my current choices are lasting the course much better, and nothing is frustrating me about the sound to want better.
This has extended to my choice of amps, where I'm now firmly in the SETs camp, and spkrs which synergise nicely w/these, and any change here, even if I was curious, is harder to effect w/what I consider to be critical: the spkr-amp synergy, not just the individual pieces.
But most critically, going firmly down the balanced power/grounding/sympathetic cables route has had an amazing effect on the holistic presentation, really maxxing the quality in my choices in ways I wouldn't have thought possible, and these hve been areas I'd never thought I'd spend cash on, even 5 yrs ago.
I would certainly say all your colleagues would be wise to investigate all these, rather than wholesale component swaps.
Hence my interesting dilemma re considering a pair of horns that may really punch above their weight, and do I want to upset the applecart? A decade ago, I wouldn't have batted an eyelid always striving for better. Now, I'm not so sure.
 

bonzo75

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I think Al and Micro were discussing a different topic, is it about the Music, or is it about the gear?

I differentiate the hobby into 3 - 4 areas for myself

1. Music - I average a classical live concert every week or so. That's a lot of music.
2. Gear - For me audiophilia is about auditioning gear, finding out what works and what doesn't
3. Building my own system - I might not have at hime the gear I think best, because of budget/size constraints
4. DIY - I am not into this, but can understand those who DIY want to listen to their own built gear rather than what's best

There are overlaps between all points, some points overlap for some more than for others.

All those who say they are about 1. should be on Gramophone records, not on this or similar forums. I put DSP in 2 and 3.

Spiritof music (Marc) brings up a point that is a bit different, about being emotional about one's gear. For example, he is quite emotional about Zus, even though he might say they are not SOTA. On the other hand, I might say Lampi is sota, but am not emotional about it.


Edit: On PeterA's thread, I would classify as a gearswapper trying to get better sound, except that I would audition a lot of gear the world over. Not just in my system. Also, I do exchange a lot of notes with some audiophiles
I might have misread Micro, Al, or Marc, as I have been speedreading on mobile
 
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spiritofmusic

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I'm emotional/protective about gear. Music really stirs my soul, like most here, obv. When I find something that pushes my buttons immed, and continues to do so many yrs later, yep I get well and truly devoted to it. Now, this either shuts me off from other choices that could make me happier or puts me down the road of trying to get the very best out of it. The latter in my case.
My measure for whether I should move on, is: are there shortcomings that become apparent. There's no need to compare and contrast to be aware of this, general restlessness will set in whatever, and that itch will need to be scratched. Ten years ago, this mood set in within weeks of any purchase, now since I completed my last proper component purchase, the Nat Audio SETs, I don't pine for anything.
My attention being drawn to a pair of horns is a bit of a left field one for me, since my Zus are not making me pensive, and true to my rule, my most recent change to them have made their performance so good they're encroaching on the territory I've previously reserved for horns (having had intensive demo time w/AG Duos in the last few months to get familiar), and if I'm consistent, I'll walk away.
 

Johnny Vinyl

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What is this really about? Devotion? Sensitivity? Emotion? Protection (protectiveness)? Regardless of the side of the fence you stand (obj/subj) I suggest all of these are part of our experience.
 

spiritofmusic

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Johnny, I've been criticised for a faulty mindset that I stick religiously to gear, and spend cash on system impvts that represents poor VFM, and this demonstrates skewed devotion to gear. Ideally I would continue to audition to experience the breadth of gear out there, w/out going in an endless series of decreasing circles fooling myself tweaks are getting me anywhere near an effective sound.
I semi agree. There are areas I haven't addressed yet like acoustic room treatments, that could produce more benefits for less cost.
But I fundamentally disagree that the chase needs to be on all the time, and if gear floats yr boat, AND CONTINUES TO DO SO, why move away unneccesarily?
 

microstrip

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A well known audio scientist wrote:

The origin of emotion in a listener is the art itself—the music or movie—and not the audio hardware. It is inconceivable that a consumer could feel an emotional attachment to a midrange loudspeaker driver, yet without good ones, listening experiences will be diminished. (end of quote).

I am in partial disagreement with him. Many audiophiles have strong emotional connections with some brands and/or particular models, and a positive enjoyment of the hobby depends on them.

After decades I still feel strongly emotionally connected with two components - the Quad ESL63 and the Eminent Technology 2.5 tonearm. I bought my first pair of ESL63 in an act of faith - I had never listened or seem them, and I traveled by car to the UK to pick a pair with the help of a good friend, as at that time there was long waiting list for them. If it was just for the Quads, I would have answered option 5 (just reviews) in a recent poll - I decided to get them after reading the Gramphone and HifiNews reviews in 1981.

They were much better sounding than I could imagine and I had memorable experiences with them along several decades. Every time we would reallocate, I would sell them either by financial or space reasons. Family and friends referred to "the Quad's". I think that the pair still staying in my garage is my fourth pair.

The Eminent Technology 2.5 tonearm was a different affair. After many years listening to vinyl using great British made tonearms, it was the first tonearm that could free the music from the vinyl modulation noise in my system. Once properly set up, music was in a different space from the minimal mechanical noise. It was so different from all previous experiences that also still keep it boxed in my garage.

It is much more fashionable to say that we are in the hobby just because of the art, to enjoy the musical message. But I think that most of WBF readers also have an emotional connection with part of their equipment.
 

Phelonious Ponk

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I don't think anyone buys this stuff without emotion. I very passionately believe in low noise, low distortion, fidelity to the recording, digital sources and plenty of headroom in both current and watts. But those beliefs have led me to active systems that are "synergized" by the design engineers, and leave me with little to upgrade and nothing to tweak. That's a good thing because for me, that would miss the point. YMMV.

Tim
 

JackD201

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Personally gear is a means to an end. They are just tools. I do however sometimes get attached after purchase if not before. Call me sentimental. Fortunately not sentimental enough to stop me from unloading when I've needed to. To date I think I've reached the end of the road in only one area, my turntable. Not because I think it is ultimately "the best out there" but rather I think it already satisfies all my needs. So, it is the block I'm building around now.
 

Ron Resnick

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Peter, thank you for the interesting taxonomy!

(I think I am a (vinyl-only) Vintage Sounds Great Guy.)
 

Rodney Gold

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My next journey will be more Shun Mooking, and room acoustics after my house move next yr.

Forget the Shun moons and do the room acoustics.. best bang for your buck.
Its quite liberating to divest of all the tweaks and boxes and cables and cd's (hd) and get a streaming solution for new music..like tidal
I decided to go that route with my setup...

I have plenty room to tweak.. like changing target curves with Dirac or using Acourate or just some judicious low bass PEQ but just dont have to buy more gear to do so..

Here is my "equipment" rack..and the TT is just for show :)
 

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the sound of Tao

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Good gear design and construct are always to be valued but not as much as the value in the music and experiences some gear can bring us. Obsessing over objects isn't ideal.

Few bits of gear actually transcend their craft to become art within an object itself, thinking Kondo, Wavac and Shindo as examples as these that give art in music as well as art of design and are the genuine embodiment of the spirit of the designers themselves. There are others I am sure. Thinking off hand AF1/2/3, Vox Olympian and Thomas Meyer amps as just a few more possible examples.

I'm not necessarily a Magico pundit but am tempted to believe given the apparent trajectory that is the uncompromising and singular spirit and vision of Alon Wolf that his creations may well end up as art but only time will tell. I like gear but I love music.
 

spiritofmusic

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I'm really referring to a certain impulse to need to upgrade. No doubt I've had it in the past w/main gear, but I think I've chosen components so wisely w/such excellent system synergy (accident or design?), that only doubling or trebling the budget for an upgrade of a current component is worth it now - eg I went from a £5k all-Roksan analog front end in 1997, to a £12k Michell/SME/Transfiguration/Tom Evans rig in 2005 that was a definite impvt, to my current set up (Trans Fi Salvation/Terminator/Soundsmith Straingauge/Red Wine Audio) that cost me £9k in 2012, and has been such a massive step up that even more SOTA setups I've heard (£35k TW Acustic AC3/Graham/Dynavector/Tron or £35k Grand Prix Monaco/Triplanar/Lyra/Bakoon only beats it by a whisker.
The Michell front end was the first analog system I put together that really floated my boat, and I still miss the aesthetics of it, it's charming sound, and the fact that it maintains a position in my heart as a first love, but there's no doubt my current rig slays it, and is a true Giant Killer. The need to spend £30k plus to beat it does not fill my heart w/any kind of enthusiasm.
The pressure from the arch non sympathetics would be not to be satisfied here, and still push to upgrade to get sequential impvts. Maybe I am doing this, but on system wide impvts like cables, power and grounding over the last 3 yrs, and I have to say here the energy to improve things/money spent has been just as intense as my components' Holy Grail search was in 1997-2012.
 

microstrip

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(...) (I think I am a (vinyl-only) Vintage Sounds Great Guy.)

This is an excellent formula.

Digital can force big changes in a system. I think that in order to maximize a system for one of the formats we must make compromises that do not favor the other. IMHO, it is why sometimes people are so extreme (and devote...) in their postings about analog versus digital - it is caused by their system.

My best souvenirs of vinyl come from the past - about 20-30 years ago. However memorable great experiences of the last ten years, including recent ones, involved SOTA digital players, unfortunately always with top cables.

And yes, Transparent XL-V with Prodigy's are a top cable ...
 

PeterA

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I think that in order to maximize a system for one of the formats we must make compromises that do not favor the other. IMHO, it is why sometimes people are so extreme (and devote...) in their postings about analog versus digital - it is caused by their system.

This is an interesting observation. I know, in my case, I wanted to maximize what I could within my budget, so I focused on one source format. Secondarily, I wanted the digital format to stabilize, but that does not seem to be happening, so I will continue to watch and wait.
 

PeterA

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Here is how I would describe the members of this group:

1. The Gear Swapper: He buys a lot of gear, has a lot of fun trying new stuff, and in the process, is getting better and better sound. In fact, he owns the best sounding system that I have ever heard. He also buys an incredible number of LPs and digital music. He is devoted to gear in the sense that he likes to try lots of new stuff to learn how specific components sound. As his friends, we all benefit from hearing the different iterations of his system. The pros are that he has more first hand experience with more gear in his own system than many other audiophiles. The cons are that there is a cost involved, system instability, and there is always the suspicion that there is something better out there.

2. The DIYer: He builds his own crossovers, installs different drivers, modifies electronics, adds noise shields, etc. He knows science and applies this knowledge and interest in tweaking his system for ever improving sound. The pros are the satisfaction from doing it himself, saving money and learning in the process. I don't know of any cons.

3. The Digital correction and measurement guy: He builds his own speakers, measures his room, is very computer savvy, and plays in the digital realm with room correction for a response curve that sounds the most real to him. He designs user/music interfaces. The pros are again the satisfaction and cost savings of doing it himself and the learning of new technologies. I can't think of any cons.

4. The Vintage Sounds Great guy: He rarely changes gear. He has a combination of old and newer equipment and he knows what he likes. Lately, he has been experimenting with room acoustics in a serious way. He is improving the sound of his room which helps his system sound its best. There is incredible stability in this system and he continues to find ways to refine and improve the sound. The pros are stability, satisfaction, and cost savings. I can't think of any cons.

5. The Analog Adjuster: He continuously tweaks his arm/cartridge/phono settings to optimize his analog. VTA is adjusted for different LPs. Record cleaning is a ritual. He has an industrial air compressor in his living room for his isolation platform. At this point, his gear rarely changes and when it does, he upgrades within his chosen brands. The pros are stability and satisfaction. The cons are a restricted selection of music only on vinyl and the time it takes to adjust the analog rig.

These audiophiles' WBF monikers are Al M., Ack, MadFloyd, Aljordan and PeterA.

For sake of clarification, the descriptions and monikers are in random order. Keen readers of this forum, particularly the member system threads, should be able to quickly match the moniker to the audiophile description. I thought it would add a fun challenge to the post.
 

Ron Resnick

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I think that in order to maximize a system for one of the formats we must make compromises that do not favor the other. IMHO, it is why sometimes people are so extreme (and devote...) in their postings about analog versus digital - it is caused by their system.
That is an interesting and astute observation. My own reply is identical to what Peter just posted. I wanted to solve the equipment equation to maximize pleasure without compromise from one format. (For years, until I got the single, line-level retrofit, I had the ready excuse that the Io is phono only.)
 

Phelonious Ponk

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Digital can force big changes in a system. I think that in order to maximize a system for one of the formats we must make compromises that do not favor the other. IMHO, it is why sometimes people are so extreme (and devote...) in their postings about analog versus digital - it is caused by their system.

As one who believes the purpose of an audio reproduction system is to faithfully reproduce the recording, I'm skeptical about "maximizing" a system for one piece of hardware within that system, even the source. Do you have an example of this maximizing?

Tim
 

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