Thoughts about upgrading after visiting some wammers homes

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DomT

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I have now been to listen to six different systems at wammers homes and one wammer has come to mine and I had a few thoughts to share.

Firstly everyone should make an effort to get out an meet other wammers. Everyone that I have met has been kind and welcoming. And every visit was educational and thoroughly worthwhile beyond HiFi stuff; and it helps us connect better.

The reason why this is in 2 channel and not in bake-offs is because firstly it will be more visible here and secondly there is a 2 channel discussion to be had.

Each wammer was happy with their system. Each system sounded great to me. But each also sounded very different to each other. And also they all sounded different to mine. Three of the systems were serious money, more than I would spend today, and it got me thinking. Why and how should anyone upgrade (given that’s what most of this forum is about) or actually not to change anything at all.

Maybe upon listening to someone else’s system there is a lightbulb moment; and that could either confirm your existing path or open a new one. I have sometimes commented about components saying I like this thing about item A and something else about item B and if only I could find an item that did everything well. And it was the same with these systems. I liked various aspects of all but don’t think that any one system was better than the other at *everything*. This may or not not be your experience but it was mine.

And it got me thinking. I heard a great saying once: that if perfection could be achieved that it wouldn’t actually be worth having. Maybe the perfect system is impossible for most people, and if so, then why bother with changing anything? And if you already like your system then maybe don’t drastically change direction as you may find that it’s just different and not better. Or maybe do as some on here have done just improve within the brands that you already really like.

And so it seems to me that making any recommendations to anyone who’s system you haven’t heard is really rather difficult. But what do you think?
 
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Camverton

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Spot on. I don’t think there is a universal best hifi, only what is best for any particular individual. Thankfully, as individuals, we’re all different and that includes some of the dubious musical tastes of some of our fellow music lovers!
 

Ceko

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“if perfection could be achieved that it wouldn’t actually be worth having” well that’s perhaps one of the greatest quotes I’ve heard in a long time! Thank you for that.
 
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TIU

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Why and how should anyone upgrade (given that’s what most of this forum is about) or actually not to change anything at all.
I don't think most of this forum is about upgrading. For me it's about sharing opinions on hifi and music topics. I always do my own research when buying new gear and have found that when advice is sought, it is so wide-ranging and contrary, it is difficult to judge. One man's meat etc.
 

George 47

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Good comment Dom. It is always great to meet and talk audio/music with different people on the forum. I have been to some bake-offs where the individual characteristics of the system were heard by most people but there was a different preference, with some preferring a brighter, more detailed up front sound and others preferring a more relaxed musical sound. More rarely do you hear a system that is really bad or an extreme example of the two above characteristics. Super bright or super dull. I assume no one got out their measurement charts to prove how wonderful their systems/views were.

One of the better ways to really hear people's systems or appreciate the infinite variety of systems is come to the Wam Show. I doubt there will be two systems the same, or sound the same. You can also hear great music that you can chose. Oh and the social side is quite good as well....;)
 

Non-Smoking Man

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I agree with your early point Dom that its good to get out and about, meet different Wammers and listen to different systems. This is because you get a reference map for where you and your system stand. Word of mouth in the community can be useful as a buying guide and knowing people over time gives you an inkling as to different products' reliability. Also, by meeting other hifi users you use your observational skills to assess them - do they exhibit any noticeable biases and prejudices that might cloud their judgement, what is their hearing like, are they toetappers (appreciate rhythm (or not))?

In my case I changed direction when I heard a horn system at Scalford run by Guy Sergeant, i_should_coco et.al. I stopped on the sofa and chatted at length with the principals learning what I could and followed that up with reading everything I could and joining Speakerplans Forum because horns are more common in pro audio.

My choices are nearly always based on theory. I try to find out what types of component will work well with others. Also I specialise in one sector - high efficiency and that's partly determined by my lifelong adherence to valve amplification, and, more recently single ended triodes.

But conversely I would be able to construct a system with muscle amps and low efficiency speakers by following a number of guidelines if I wanted to.

Occasionally I'll hear a system and try to guess what is the standout component. But that's tricky because there's no way to isolate individual bits.

The best source of knowledge is your own system because its easier to test things rigorously. My views on active speakers, cable sound, room treatment, the need for a good rack, relative financial outlay on front end, electronics and speakers etc., are based on my own experience and what I hear from respected 'colleagues' and mates. If you get any of these things wrong, your system sound will suffer. And you wont know you are doing it wrong till you hear a system where someone has done it right - that's the value of getting out and about hifi-wise.

Yes, most systems sound a bit different which is a bit surprising. Although most systems are either better or worse than other systems and components are better or worse than other components. That's probably why they sound different. Despite my concession that individual differences must be there, I'm not convinced by the popular relativism of 'we are all different', 'we all have different tastes' etc. - there are widely accepted criteria of what constitutes a good sound and a reasonable vocabulary for describing it.

On perfection - I recently said to a guest that my mono system is where I want it, there is no more to be done. No its not perfect but I'm satisfied with it. Its taken me 10 years to get there.

The catchy saying about 'if perfection could be achieved it wouldnt be worth having' is just nonsense.
Perfection, or excellence is always worth achieving, or aiming for, at least.

Jack NSM
 
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Ian

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Nice post/thread and agreed. I think I've mentioned recently, as Dom does, meeting like minded folk is really great and personalising the forum in this way is one great positive of social media.

I was the wammer who visited Dom with my Q7 and think I preferred them at his place on the end of his system. Maybe !

As for upgrading, I'm not sure that's my prime aim when buying stuff, more playing about really. Having said that, the last 'hunch' purchase (Primaluna Prologue 5) is pretty much a hobby ender in terms of final system really, so speculative moves can be a hit. I suppose intuition also plays a part here.

Anyway, yes, absolutely what he said 😊
 
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Nifkin

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There can be an unhelpful fixation not only with achieving a 'perfect' system, but that there's always some linear, vertically ordered scale of stages on the way there. The word 'upgrade' plays into that. I think a word like 'alteration' would be better. To follow on from something @DomT has said, once you tweak or change one part of your system it may improve certain aspects of the sound you like, but objectively speaking you may also lose a little in other areas of sonic performance, areas which may not be as important to you.

The only thing that does rise in a vertically ordered scale is how much money you spend, but this doesn't necessarily correlate with a rising scale of SQ.
 
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DomT

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The word 'upgrade' plays into that. I think a word like 'alteration' would be better. To follow on from something @DomT has said, once you tweak or change one part of your system it may improve certain aspects of the sound you like, but objectively speaking you may also lose a little in other areas of sonic performance, areas which may not be as important to you.
This. You gain something but often lose something as well. I can only think of one occasion where I have made a change and didn’t lose anything on a musical level.

The other thing that has struck me is that resolution/transparency isn’t a worthwhile goal for me. Musical message and tone trumps everything else for me. To also have scale and transparency as well without losing the musical message and tone (as I want to hear it) seems to be an expensive journey.

And finally as others have said I would start with the speakers and work backwards. In the 70s people said that the speakers were the most important part of the system until Linn started selling turntables. With the right speakers I find that I don’t care if the source is my Luxman PD171/Audio Note turntable or Spotify streaming MP3.
 

rabski

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The best thing about visiting other people to listen to their setups is that you get to talk s**t with people who don't roll their eyes and try to change the subject.

The second best bit is that if you visit enough, you come away with a better idea of what sort of presentation appeals to you the most. And hopefully, a somewhat clearer idea of how to achieve it.

The worst bit is that you get to listen to stuff that you want...
 

JANDL100

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As for upgrading, I'm not sure that's my prime aim when buying stuff, more playing about really.
Same for me.

I also agree that "upgrades" usually lose out on some aspects of performance as well as improving others.
Which is why for me different can be as much fun as better.

The way I look at it is that system changes often give a different perspective on the music.
 

hiesteem

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making any recommendations to anyone who’s system you haven’t heard is really rather difficult. But what do you think?
Very good write up Dom. I am of the belief that audio equipment doesn't really improve at a certain point.
Perhaps what changes is the delivery of sound. Therefore all we can do, is make suggestions to others, as they experiment.
My starting point is, if I have a system that fundamentally works well and delivers a desired sound, then changing a primary component, amplifier, speakers, front end, can change the desired sound.
Of course a turntable and it's component parts takes that change to another level. Which is actually one of the reason's I still don't have one.
I still remember the pain........ lol.
 

Blzebub

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An awful lot depends on the room, it takes a while to adjust to the acoustics in an unfamiliar environment.

FWIW, Paul55 recently visited, but I've no idea what he thought because I didn't ask, and he didn't say. I have a quiet hum on the phono side, not as bad as it has been in the past, but mildly irritating none the less.
 

HollyJohnsen

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There is no such thing as a perfect system, as each listener has a different development, different habits, different spaces. In addition, the recordings are very different. The range of recording qualities is extreme, from "I'll start crying right away because it's so beautiful to "oh is the garbage". Unfortunately, there are no standards. Thus, there can be no perfect system in general. For me, I think my system is perfect.
 
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pmcuk

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I certainly can identify with "playing about"... just trying different things to see how they turn out. Curiosity really.

And I can identify with "altering" rather than "upgrading" the system.

The thing is that what I have now is certainly not the best system I've owned. That was both the stacked Quad 57s and the Apogee Caliper Sig. full length ribbons. Each was awesome. But they were far too big for my 4.5x3.5mtr listening room. And when I got married and had a child they had no chance of staying. So enter small 2-way speakers close to walls so the full space of the rooms could be used - it's just a basic but nice Kensington flat.

So the push pull amps turned into SE valve amps. The CD player and turntable turned into a Mac Pro as the sole source, so the vinyl could be sold to make space and the ripped CDs could be stored. And given these new realities the sound became optimised for what's here now. I like it - it has transparency and excellent tone to instruments. And it's SO much easier to use with playlists in iTunes.

As Stephen Stills sings...
"If you can't be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you're with"
 
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plasticpenguin

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I have now been to listen to six different systems at wammers homes and one wammer has come to mine and I had a few thoughts to share.

Firstly everyone should make an effort to get out an meet other wammers. Everyone that I have met has been kind and welcoming. And every visit was educational and thoroughly worthwhile beyond HiFi stuff; and it helps us connect better.

The reason why this is in 2 channel and not in bake-offs is because firstly it will be more visible here and secondly there is a 2 channel discussion to be had.

Each wammer was happy with their system. Each system sounded great to me. But each also sounded very different to each other. And also they all sounded different to mine. Three of the systems were serious money, more than I would spend today, and it got me thinking. Why and how should anyone upgrade (given that’s what most of this forum is about) or actually not to change anything at all.

Maybe upon listening to someone else’s system there is a lightbulb moment; and that could either confirm your existing path or open a new one. I have sometimes commented about components saying I like this thing about item A and something else about item B and if only I could find an item that did everything well. And it was the same with these systems. I liked various aspects of all but don’t think that any one system was better at *everything*. This may or not not be your experience but it was mine.

And it got me thinking. I heard a great saying once: that if perfection could be achieved that it wouldn’t actually be worth having. Maybe the perfect system is impossible for most people, and if so, then why bother with changing anything? And if you already like your system then maybe don’t drastically change direction as you may find that it’s just different and not better. Or maybe do as some on here have done just improve within the brands that you already really like.

And so it seems to me that making any recommendations to anyone who’s system you haven’t heard is really rather difficult. But what do you think?
Hi Dom.

Agreed it's always good to listen someone else's kit, but truth is unless you hear that kit in your listening room the sound cannot be guaranteed. In other words, what sounds good in their place might not in yours.

This is why yours truly and others usually say get a home demo. We can only recommend brands we like but may not chime with your ears.if you are spending mega hundreds or thousands without a home demo, it's a real risk.

This is why I've declined offers in the past to visit a warmer.
 

Jules_S

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Love your original post, Dom. My own view on acquiring / changing / upgrading system components is that before doing anything at all one should take time to understand one's own tastes and preferences in sound reproduction. (by the way, I'm using "one" rather than "you" in this post not because I'm posh 😁 but to indicate that I am not directing these words specifically at you, but to everyone reading)

Without understanding personal preference, how does one know where to turn the attention when it comes to the selection process? And if the suggestions and opinions of other people is to be part of that process, then one really needs to understand their preferences too, and to be able to compare their perceptions to one's own.

This is where the "getting out and about" that you (Dom), and others have mentioned, is so crucial. Apart from the sheer craic (and that is brilliant in its own right), it gives a real opportunity for different people to listen to the same system and compare their thoughts. One person's "dull as ditchwater" is another's "smooth and refined". The critical bit here is to understand that both viewpoints are true, through the ears of the individual listener. The really important bit is not to work out who's "right" and who's "wrong", but to be able to understand what the other person(s) hear, so that their suggestions of alternatives can be viewed with that relative understanding. If someone offers a suggestion to you for a new amp, for example, and you happen to know through shared experience that their preference is for a more up-front and dynamic sound where your own is more laid-back, then that suggestion probably won't help much (unless of course they are being super-helpful and deliberately skewing their suggestions to match your own preferences!)

In short, relative understanding of each other's preferences is the key to making sense of comments and suggestions.

Oh, and the other thing is that if you love what your own system does, then carry on being happy with it and don't fall into the "upgrade for upgrade's sake" trap. And don't listen to other Wammers systems if they cost ten times your own! 😁 That opens a whole can of worms you don't want to open....
 
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luxury_scruff

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I was always aiming for a system (within my budget), that made me either keep reaching into my vinyl rack or had me sat comfily trying both new and well-known music (CD or streaming) - past my bed-time, or whenever the urge took me to switch the kit on.