"The Perfect Sound" Book

Has anyone read the recently released book entitled The Perfect Sound, by Garrett Hongo?

I will not call it a great book - I actually found it quite pedantic and narcissistic in many places, but it might hold interest for some of the folks on this board because it chronicles a man’s quest for the “perfect” audiophile stereo system.

He really only pursues tube amplification, and perhaps there is a larger debate to be had about that (although Naim owners clearly don’t feel that tube amplification is the only way to go), but it also occurred to me in reading the book that he spent years and years on obsessive trial-and-error when it is probably the case that one could also just pick a brand (say, Naim, or, if you want to go for tube amplification, perhaps McIntosh or another well-known brand) and do pretty well right out of the gate.

So many of the problems he discusses in putting together a nice system, including clipping, blowing up tubes, mismatched impedance, etc., seem to be nonexistent on these threads, and of course there are some completely audio-obsessed folks chiming in. Frankly, as a relatively experienced musician and a lifelong music lover, I think I have a fairly discriminating ear, and my entry-level Nova+Kanta No. 2 rig sounds fantastic.

If anyone has read the book and understands the types of systems he is putting together:

  1. Does Naim just make it easy to achieve fantastic sound by doing most of the work for us in putting together well-matched components?

  2. Are Naim buyers just operating at a higher price point than he was/is, similar to Porsche owners wondering why someone would spend all kinds of time and effort trying to get extra horsepower out of a Honda Civic? In other words, does the Naim price point simply allow one to avoid all of the trial-and-error?

  3. Is there really something more to be gained (aside from the hobbyist’s joy in cobbling things together, which I totally get) in terms of sound quality from obsessively swapping out components from different brands? I mean, I would think if I dropped $500,000 on a full-blown Naim Statement setup with top-notch Focal speakers there wouldn’t be much more I could do. Even for those of us (me included) who can’t afford that, it seems that people around here are pretty happy with their 250DR-level setups paired with quality speakers from Harbeth, ATC, Focal, Dynaudio, Sonus Faber or the like.

  4. Is there really that much trial-and-error these days? He started his hobby many years ago. Have things become much more standardized and predictable in the audiophile space? I know folks on these boards do a lot of talking about cables, DACs and speakers, but it is a pretty narrow range of brands and even products that seem to get the best reviews.

As someone who is just starting out on this journey, I was simply exhausted thinking about how hard the author worked to put together something that, I suspect, couldn’t sound that much better than some Naim separates (if it sounded better at all). I think my next step is simple: Supernait 3 and NDX 2 with the separate power supply, into my Kanta No. 2s. Maybe upgrade my Rega turntable. Will I ever need to go higher than that? Who knows, but I certainly won’t have to worry about blowing up an amplifier by mixing and matching components from all over the planet.

Anyway, perspectives would be appreciated.

I suggest you watch that video. It says a lot on why very good tubes give something that solid state will probably never give.
YouTube review on the legendary Shindo Massetto, the one Art Dudley had.

Yes, read it and agree with your view in the first paragraph.
I would not recommend the book for those reasons.

So, honest question: With the dollars being thrown around on the equipment discussed on these boards, if tube preamps and amps are the real deal, and something like a Shindo Massetto can be had (if you can find one, I suppose) in great condition for less than $20,000 USD, why are folks paying more than that for a Naim NAC 252 or NAC 552 plus a power supply? Is it the convenience factor of solid state?

Perhaps it depends on what the individual considers to be fantastic sound…. As an example, some people say vinyl gives a fantastic sound and digital doesn’t, others say the opposite. They can’t both be right …or can they?

And if it was so simple to get a fantastic sound from, say, the Naim Atom, why does anyone go for any of Naim’s higher range products.and of course?

Some people are always on the quest for “better”, whether that be constant tweaking, perennial upgrading, or even sometimes ‘sideways’ moves then off again. Other manage to find a system that satisfies them indefinitely, which may be ay a very modest price.

I haven’t read the book so I’ve no idea of the price point the author was at, though your synopsis suggests he may have started at a relatively low price point, then built up to something much higher. But Naim covers a huge price range, from Qb to Statement,

Also relevant is the timescale covered by the author, as the cost of “the best” has increased over time such that the best you could buy, say, 50 years ago was equivalent cost to only the bottom of what might be considered “high end” today.

I guess if the author paid the equivalent of half a million dollars in todays money on buying whatever was the very best that could be purchased he might not have felt there was anything more he could do (what was the cost of best he achieved?). As for people being “pretty happy” with lower cost systems, see my first comment above.

I am not convinced that there is less ‘trial and error’ these days - indeed, from what I read, if anything the emphasis on the individual finding their own preferred ‘best’ that is to their personal taste is greater now than it was decades ago, accepting that not everyone likes the same things in presentation of music. The ‘pretty narrow range of brands’ to which you refer, if gleaned from this forum alone may be because of the core interest of this forum, while there seem to be near infinite permutations, with forever new additions that upset the applecart…

Interestingly it seems that relatively few people seeking “the best sound” are prepared to do something serious about the acoustics of the listening space, meaning they are forever limited in what can be achieved.

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I gave only my opinion, like the author of the book who prefer tubes sound too.
I won’t say it’s an absolute truth.