Whilst perusing the website of a rather high-end dealer’s website the other day I came across, what has became, a rather thought provoking comment for me.
From purchasing my Atom a few years back I’ve put my system together at a fairly rapid clip, probably not in the right order and certainly with a couple of impulse purchases along the way. A few tweaks have given notable improvement, namely, upgrading the modem/router from that provided by the ISP, taking the speakers of their spikes and setting them on a couple of granite cutting boards, and measuring my room and dialling in some DSP. I have inevitably though been thinking about the new 300 series and whether to swap out my NAP 300.
The comment - more of a plea - was that before you buy a new box “finish the system” you have (or words to that effect). Now this dealer sells some mighty expensive ancillaries so I could have dismissed it as sales talk, but it keeps coming back to me - how do I know I need another box upgrade until I’m somewhat sure I’m getting the best from what I have. With this I think I’m going to hang on to what I have, explore cables, do something about the power going in to it, and get my speakers on some isolators - at least that’s today’s plan. Question is, did you finish the system?
A system can only possibly be ‘finished’ for a finite period of time. Even with router, cable and rack swaps etc. there are always more options to explore. It depends on how far you are prepared to go.
Sometime after finishing (days, weeks, months or years), there may be new products to tempt, a change in circumstances or many other reasons why you may need/want to change again.
In my case, I bought decent cables, a great rack (Atacama bamboo rather than fraim), new speakers on cups and careful setup of my NDX2/SN3. I decided that was where I was content and sat back and enjoyed the music for almost five years.
So the answer is yes, I have finished my system. However, my finite period of time turned out to be 5 years as I am tempted by the new 300 series.
I would submit that no system is ever really finished. Every system is essentially a ‘work in progress’. That is the nature of being an audiophile.
If you want a finished system then stop being an audiophile and just enjoy the music. Easier said than done… Took me the best part of 50 years and I still have occasional relapses.
A system can only ever be finished in the mind. The reality is that there will always be somewhere else to go.
Be strong. Turn your back and walk away. That’s the only way to finish.
As you get higher up the equipment ladder, is any incremental change an improvement or just different? Sometimes we confuse the two.
I’m sure I’ve seem comments from owners of 500 series boxes express their amazement at the percieved improvement a new cable brings. I think we should exercise a healthy cynicism and take our time looking for improvements.
I took it to mean the “current system” meaning that if you change one of the major components then it’s a somewhat different system. So if you have a 222/300/250 with speakers of your choice, are you sure it’s working optimally before changing the source/amp/speakers.
Unless you’re happy with it and then maybe that’s it.
Finish? No idea what that word means…
Its easy to get lost in “the work in progress”. There is always something new to improve a system. And sadly sometimes we listen too much to the system and we forget to listen to music. Saying that, we’re audiophiles…searching for the Grail is in our blood i guess…
My system only finished after some 50 years… From the start I had my goals set high, (though not specific in terms of kit). System moved periodically upwards, often in leapfrog fashion (new thing sometimes better than the rest), fewer steps perhaps than many in this hobby, sometimes very long pauses but never finished because it was moving towards its goal.
Boxes do the work. Cables connect while sometimes maybe influencing a little. Next box works better. Other than one “upgrade” about 9 years ago (the only thing where I let a dealer persuade me to buy something, which turned out to be very marginal improvement for the money), I’ve had no disappointments, always playing music nicely, forever improving with none of the ups and downs many seem to have found over their progression - I don’t know it that is down to luck, or to my care in choosing. The system is there now, truly no desire for any further upgrades other than some room treatment I know is needed (awaiting some planned structural changes that gave been planned for a while), and then possibly some DSP to cap it - then it truly will be Finished (other than if something fails and deeds replacing).
The issues can be far more nuanced. I lost my Rega system except for my P9, due to the vibrations and plaster dust from an apartment renovation. Had this not happened. I would have been content to keep my system as is and focus on bringing great music into
Our home. I have come to respect the deficiencies of my room, the limitations posed by the construction materials and the room dimensions and the limitations imposed by my disabilities. It took me a lot of $$$ and aggravation to accept that no matter how far one goes after the holy grail, that more $$$ and more esoteric and fiddling with difficult equipment will not compensate for limitations. It took me a long whike to accept that the equipment is in the service of great music and not the other way around.
In a few weeks I will have my first Naim system installed.
Rega P9 with Exact
I could have started with node X, a Nait XS3 and then upgraded to the SuperNait3, while adding a Highcap and the ND5SX2 at a later time.
I chose to purchase everything at one time, rather than upgrade incrementally. I am treating this as my “final” system.
One reason why I chose to do everything at one time was to minimize home setup costs. Disability precludes my connecting components.
A friend who’s also a forum member here bought his system in 1999 and has kept it as it is since then. He seems perfectly happy.
I’ve swapped tenths of boxes in the last fifteen years or so and am never satisfied.
My belief is, the more you use the system to just play music, the sooner it’s finished. And the reverse is even truer.
Yes I get it. The problem is that optimising cables, stands, mains supply etc. can be very expensive indeed. Ruinously so if we are talking about truly optimising these things rather than just improving them. That expense can amount to more than the cost of a box upgrade.
So there’s the dilemma. When it comes down to it I think most of us normally would opt for the box upgrade. Why? Because experience shows that this brings the biggest bang for your buck. So you never finish. Because then you start to want to optimise cables etc. again, and so it goes on…
That is why i say that the only true way to finish is to make a concious decision that you will stick with the boxes you have, no matter what, and you will buy the best stands, cables etc. that you can afford.
Having done that, as I have, you then need to simply turn your back on it all and just enjoy music. I still have the occaisonal pang to get this or that, but then I remind myself that I my wife and I only have a finite amount of money and there are other things in life. That ususally takes away any desire to spend several more thousands of pounds on hi-fi.
I think this is the key point I’m churning over in my mind. If I do the box upgrade then I know I will still want to spend more to optimise - probably best for me to stick for the moment and spend some of that money on getting the best from what I have and then, just maybe, I will be satisfied with that and stay put for a longer period or indefinitely.
There is a technique you can try to ween yourself off upgrade-itus. Choose and artist and then spend a week listening to their entire back catalogue. Like Fleetwood Mac or David Bowie or whatever. Focusing on getting through it really makes you think more about the music than the hardware. You might find more to love about your system than you realise if you can keep this up for a few weeks.
Doing exactly that this morning with Gomez.
I love doing that. In fact it was doing so that first really got me into streaming as it makes it pretty easy to do for lots of artists
Good advice - my slightly different musical “challenge” is the book 1001 albums to hear before you die. Sometimes a challenge but got me into Jazz.
Really I think don’t get bogged down in this. There is really, IMO, only one question to answer - “Why I am doing this?” Usually it will be to get better performance.
For instance, in my current set up I could very easily spend more then £20K on a better rack and better cables. I don’t have that kind of money to spend, but if I had then there’s no way I would spend it like that. I know I would get a far more fundamental and meaningful improvement by buying a better amp and DAC and keeping my current rack and cables.
So really you need to ask yourself how much you intend to spend, and whether that would be better spent on a box, or saved towards a box, than on better cables etc. Yes it won’t be optimised, but it will still be better than if you had bought the cables etc. That’s all that counts in the end.
Unfortunately I have found that few artists remained at their best for long, and those with larger catalogues are more likely to have output that would be unenjoyable to wade through like that - and if one had a goal in mind for hifi improvement doing that would make no difference. The best cure for upgraditis is not to read hifi media, not to frequent hifi shows or dealers, not to frequent internet forums like this one, and so remove all reminders, temptations and prompts, instead simply buy music and listen to it. It may also help to have other hobbies demanding more cash than is available