To Jeff Fritz,
It is always a pleasure to read your reviews and your opinion columns. I noticed recently that you have been going through what I would gently call a midlife audio crisis ["Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System: Part One"], partly caused by your family responsibilities; there’s nothing like family to bring perspective in life!
As usual, you are raising excellent questions and challenging some of the notions and prejudices that have plagued the high-end audio community for years. This is a good thing and I think that most audio writers should go through this phase because, as you pointed out, there is a lot of BS out there! Spewed by manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and most sadly the audiophile community. I remember before buying my Simaudio Moon 600i amplifier, reading a forum where a reader found that The Abso!ute Sound’s review of the component was too effusive for an “$8000” integrated amp. Yup, $8000 is obviously chump change for some people and there is no way such a “cheap” amp can sound that good.
Your editorials on prices and continuous improvements are bang-on! I understand that it may be frustrating to feel that your latest purchase may be surpassed by the latest, shiniest version a year or two after your acquisition. It’s like computers and cars: there will always be something better. But in audio, is it always something much better? I don’t think so. I had the opportunity to ask this question to two respected manufacturers (for my CD player and speakers) at shows and they were honest in confirming that the newer models that replaced my gear only brought slight improvements and that the upgrade was not worth it. In my experience, a significant jump within the same product line is likely to bring improvements (my ears can attest), but with the laws of diminishing returns in full force in high-end audio (e.g., 30% improvement for 200% increase in cost), thanks but no thanks. I also think that in many cases audiophiles confuse “sounding different” with “sounding better,” especially when you compare products from different manufacturers. This I think is due to the different technology implementation philosophies and voicing of components.
Regarding the fixation on ultra-expensive gear, a manufacturer told me more or less the same thing you mentioned: a fancy audio store in New York told that company that he had trouble selling their products because consumers found they were not expensive enough. Well, enough said indeed!!
Five years ago I reached the stage where I became very satisfied with my gear and home setup. I am fortunate to have a dedicated listening room built with soundproofing, acoustic treatment, and a dedicated power line; I think this has provided the biggest sonic upgrade over the years. Yes, I could upgrade the digital front end, especially the streamer, but for my needs it serves me well. My next upgrade will be a new power conditioner and I will go for a reasonably priced ($1000-$2000) unit probably from Torus, a Canadian company that has been in business for years and that also makes components for Bryston. As a Canadian, nothing wrong in encouraging the local industry, eh!? There you go, my patriotic bit for our 150th anniversary celebrations.
Sorry for the long letter, keep up the good work. Happy 4th of July!!
I love the comment about the midlife crisis! Except, instead of buying the Porsche, I’m selling it. Perhaps I should have titled my opinion “Jeff Finally Grows Up.” . . . Jeff Fritz