A brief look back at my audio learnings, decoding “Upgraditis” and what I wish I knew early on

Analogous

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I am so very happy with my current set up consisting of a MHDT Havana DAC, feeding the Croft line integrated amplifier which drives a pair of Harbeth P3ES and supplemented by a KEF KC62 subwoofer.
This suits my dedicated 15x15’ den nicely and I really enjoy listening to my music every day for a few hours.

However reaching this involved a tortuous journey, I arrived at this configuration after several trials with a variety of brands. The journey was often frustrating as several big name brands and well reviewed individual components did not live up to expectations. It was also somewhat expensive, but good learning too.
At certain times I had three different amplifiers and similar numbers of speaker pairs. I realised I had a problem.

I started off believing that more expensive components would always result in better sound.
I did not know clearly what kind of audio experience I was seeking.
I was blindly trying out different combinations, approaches hoping to hit some elusive benchmark.

I had a case of Upgraditis.

Then, I slowly started understanding room acoustics and a bit of how sound waves behave in closed spaces and the importance of the room proportions, early reflections, reverbs, phase cancellations etc. Bold experimentation with speaker placement, listening position changes resulted in some amazing zero cost insights and sonic benefits.
I wish I had known this early on.

I struggled mightily trying to reconcile the visual aesthetic vs sonic benefit and came to the conclusion that it is not possible to have both every time. Sometimes one speaker placed closer or angled more inwards than the other sounds better even if it looks wonky.

I discovered that Pulling the speakers out well into the room (the so called near field position) can help eliminate much of problematic room acoustics (delayed reflections, milliseconds later arrival and the brain filters it out). How far to pull them out to experiment is only limited by my imagination and length of my speaker cables. The looks of Speakers pulled well into the room, training wires- is not going to please anyone. That is until the music starts playing.

The hard choice is between audio aesthetic and visual aesthetic. So best to have modest expectations if the primary set up is in a multifunctional living room. More expensive gear is unlikely to result in great satisfaction.

This helped slow the Upgraditis.

My biggest discovery was the importance of “synergy” for exceptional audio quality. This is a secret hiding in plain sight. Some combination of components in the chain tend to work much better together and how well an amp and a speaker work in synergy can not be predicted by published measurements. It’s mostly trials and auditions, preferably in our listening spaces. As we all know, Given the circumstances we have in Indiya, home auditions and such are a dream. Buying “used” was a good option (with occasional disappointment part of the deal). I did spend a considerable amount and time buying and trying well reviewed components that sounded disappointing.

One way to select components that sound fabulous is to search online using terms like “great audio synergy between amplifiers and speakers” etc. The other way is to seek advice and suggestions from experienced audiophiles who have travelled the path before us and are thoughtful and generous with their suggestions.

Finally I have discovered that my set up, even if sounds really good to me does not excel in all generes of music. I am trying to figure this out or it’s back to Upgraditis…
 
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DB1989

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I am so very happy with my current set up consisting of a MHDT Havana DAC, feeding the Croft line integrated amplifier which drives a pair of Harbeth P3ES and a KEF KC62. This suits my dedicated 15x15’ den nicely and I really enjoy listening to my music every day for a few hours. I arrived at this configuration after several trials with a variety of brands. The journey was often frustrating as several big name brands and well reviewed individual components did not live up to expectations. It was also somewhat expensive, but good learning too.
At certain times I had three different amplifiers and similar numbers of speaker pairs. I realised I had a problem.
I did not know clearly what I wanted in terms of the audio experience
Perhaps its a rite of passage before reaching the promised land! 😅
 

DB1989

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😊 but no one warns us!!!
We are only speaking of audio here. Many of us go through life not knowing what we want, despite being showered with plenty of wisdom (and of the right kind) throughout! Some are along just for the ride.

As you said very aptly in your edit - its a process of discovery. :)
 

Analogous

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We are only speaking of audio here. Many of us go through life not knowing what we want, despite being showered with plenty of wisdom (and of the right kind) throughout! Some are along just for the ride.

As you said very aptly in your edit - its a process of discovery. :)
That’s so true!
There should be a statutory warning with all audio equipment (like with tobacco products)
 

Decadent_Spectre

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People are probably prone to upgraditis because -

1) They don't know what they want
2) They are your typical show off addicts of today (Money and approval are their gods)
3) They get/are willing to spend a relatively small amount of money at a time that leads to incremental or sidegrades
 

arj

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..
Finally I have discovered that my set up, even if sounds really good to me does not excel in all generes of music. I am trying to figure this out or it’s back to Upgraditis…

Dil Maange More.

All of us evolve in our tastes and sensible upgraditis is nothing more than how deep you want to go in an area , and how much more you want from it, untill you reach a point where more does not feel like more. And that level is different for everyone.

Those who drink may start with Rum/Coke and end up with Whiskey and then make their wayto Single malts or expensive wines...
In photography some may start with PS cameras and some may end with Full Frame Prime lens setup while others are happy with Zooms and crop sensors and yet others satisfied with Phones

In leather shoes ( :) .. and we have a thread here on this ), some are happy with regular cemented construction soles while others want to have the Good year welt or Norwegian welts with Argentine or italian leather etc

Same for for Food, clothes, cars. cycles...and any other hobby !

Similarly in Audio as you go on depending on ones temperament and expectation we do tend to expect more and more untill we dont expect anymore and where we end up is personal based on priority of the hobby, intent to spend, phase in life etc etc.

As long as the intent is to improve and if one is able to assess that a component upgrade is the right way to achieve that, its the right way to do it. Of course changing a component without the right assessment eg changing the speaker due to lack of Bass although the reason was either a poor placement Or the source /amplification room being the culprit is just a waste of money.
 

Analogous

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Dil Maange More.

All of us evolve in our tastes and sensible upgraditis is nothing more than how deep you want to go in an area , and how much more you want from it, untill you reach a point where more does not feel like more. And that level is different for everyone.

Those who drink may start with Rum/Coke and end up with Whiskey and then make their wayto Single malts or expensive wines...
In photography some may start with PS cameras and some may end with Full Frame Prime lens setup while others are happy with Zooms and crop sensors and yet others satisfied with Phones

In leather shoes ( :) .. and we have a thread here on this ), some are happy with regular cemented construction soles while others want to have the Good year welt or Norwegian welts with Argentine or italian leather etc

Same for for Food, clothes, cars. cycles...and any other hobby !

Similarly in Audio as you go on depending on ones temperament and expectation we do tend to expect more and more untill we dont expect anymore and where we end up is personal based on priority of the hobby, intent to spend, phase in life etc etc.

As long as the intent is to improve and if one is able to assess that a component upgrade is the right way to achieve that, its the right way to do it. Of course changing a component without the right assessment eg changing the speaker due to lack of Bass although the reason was either a poor placement Or the source /amplification room being the culprit is just a waste of money.
Nice analogies @arj
I feel the term “Upgraditis “ imparts a negative disease flavour to these urges.
We need to find a better term…
 

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After a certain point in photography, many hobbyists start upgrading their gears without learning and improving their vision, artistic sense & techniques. As such , even with improved gear , quality of their output remains same, even degrades.. ironically they blame their equipment , sells them for even more expensive gear and the cycle goes on.

After a certain point in audio hobby , many audiophiles stop listening to music and start listening to gear, without learning the nuances of better sound , quality of source material and different mastering choices / pressings available and how rooms affect sound.. They blame their equipment likewise , put on sale and the cycle goes on.
 

Analogous

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Sean de Silva

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After a certain point in photography, many hobbyists start upgrading their gears without learning and improving their vision, artistic sense & techniques. As such , even with improved gear , quality of their output remains same, even degrades.. ironically they blame their equipment , sells them for even more expensive gear and the cycle goes on.

After a certain point in audio hobby , many audiophiles stop listening to music and start listening to gear, without learning the nuances of better sound , quality of source material and different mastering choices / pressings available and how rooms affect sound.. They blame their equipment likewise , put on sale and the cycle goes on.
You absolutely nailed it! Unfortunately, for this disease - upgraditis, there is neither a vaccine nor a cure.
 

powerslave

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^ You know what's funny we also ignore the fact that most of us lose our hearing ability as we age , specially with highly noisy environments we live and work in our ears lose their resolving power as well as ability to hear critically at low volumes. Perhaps that explains the love for horns as you age (I hope I don't start a flame war here , it is a joke) :p
 

Analogous

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^ You know what's funny we also ignore the fact that most of us lose our hearing ability as we age , specially with highly noisy environments we live and work in our ears lose their resolving power as well as ability to hear critically at low volumes. Perhaps that explains the love for horns as you age (I hope I don't start a flame war here , it is a joke) :p
Horns sound good as we age, you say?
You do realise you are not helping with Upgraditis…?:)
 

Analogous

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I believe I've said this before, but measurements are your friend in this case. Otherwise, incurable "upgraditis" it is...
I can see what you are alluding to.
This may sound a bit provocative to some….
I could be wrong, but I believe that “all rounder” systems that measure well, that play all generes of music reasonably well but don’t do anything exceptionally well are….well boring? And lead to Upgraditis
 

DB1989

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I can see what you are alluding to.
This may sound a bit provocative to some….
I could be wrong, but I believe that “all rounder” systems that measure well, that play all generes of music reasonably well but don’t do anything exceptionally well are….well boring? And lead to Upgraditis
To quote Théoden of Rohan - SO IT BEGINS!
 

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I can suggest a much easier way… I believe almost everyone here is familiar with Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’.
Using an excellent source (my reference is a British 1980s pressing LP , but it can be a SACD as well ) , play the track ‘ Dogs’.. around 5mins 30s into the track , with acoustic guitar playing , and sound of a dog barking from the phantom centre , there is a sudden drum kick , followed by Gilmour’s piercing electric guitar which should fill your entire soundstage wall to wall , floor to ceiling.
If you have achieved audio gear-nirvana, that moment ought to knock your socks off even if you have never heard of Floyd before. If it elicits a ‘well ,‘it’s good but nothing remarkable’ or a ‘meh’ , then you are not there yet (with your gear) …. ;)
 

liverpool_for_life

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I can see what you are alluding to.
I actually meant that a FR measurement, on its own, will open your eyes to the havoc that your room is doing, especially below 500 Hz. Once you've seen that, you can delve into the even more important time domain measurements.

IMO, most people upgrade because they're dissatisfied with the sound (but don't understand the root cause) and now have accumulated sufficient funds to spend on said upgrade.
 
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