Enjoying the journey

January 16, 2018
 by Paul McGowan

Some of us are in an awfully big hurry to get where we're going. And while that may be an expedient means of achieving goals I wonder how much is missed along the way.

Sometimes the journey's worth more than the destination. Take building a high-performance audio system for example. We can throw lots of money at the problem and just get 'the best' equipment there is and assume that what we've achieved must be the best. After all, it was built from the best components. Therefore…

But, more often than not, skipping the work of learning leaves us shortchanged both in personal development and the quality of where we wind up.

We've all known people who believe the ends justify the means. That whatever it takes to get somewhere is acceptable regardless of the waste and rubble left behind. I relate more with those that believe the journey is more important than the destination. After all, it's life's journey that defines our lives, not the places we've gotten to.

My advice, when it comes to building a magnificent stereo system, is to take your time and enjoy the trials, tribulations, failures, and successes getting there.

If you're like me, once you've arrived, you're ready to move on to the next.

Enjoy the ride.

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25 comments on “Enjoying the journey”

  1. Obviously there are at least two ways to play with a model railroad: permanently building new scenarios and and track systems or just playing with the established scenario. Similar to audiophiles either interested in just listening to music or permanently tweaking and renewing their system. I rather preferred your approach starting from both system’s ends: power supply and (oversized) loudspeakers in a decent listening room. I really liked to know, Paul, how the new big PS Audio power regenerator could improve your music room one system’s sound quality.

    1. It already has. I have been playing and discovering how much better things sound with the new P20 in Music Room One. Extraordinary. It has 1/2 the impedance and twice the regulation of anything we've ever built and those differences are readily apparent in increased clarity, separation of instruments, depth, and a seeming extra octave of bass.

  2. I’m with you, Paul. I’m much more interested in the process people go through or went through to achieve great things than just to see the final result. It’s the sharing of the journey that is most inspirational to yourself and others.

  3. I'm with paulsquirrel and his spot-on analogy on this, I much prefer to watch the trains go round the track than rebuilding them, and I'm not that fussed as to know how they work.

    I remember in the 1980s driving in the mountains in Northern India. They didn't have normal road signs, like speed limits and bendy roads. They just sent someone out with a bucket of white paint and wrote warnings on the tarmac. The ones I remember are "Hurry and worry" and "Less haste more speed". Travelling is sometimes as much about the journey, but ultimately there must be a destination.

    So far as decision-making is concerned, it is said that a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. My audio knowledge is on a "need to know" basis. I have no interest in electronic engineering, circuits, whatever. If I did, I would be an engineer, but I'm not. The advantage of all-in-one systems, which for me is a blessed relief, is that I can enjoy good sound in complete ignorance.

      1. Wow, wonderful photography! Did I see a stairway from Pashupatinath on the outskirts of Kathmandu? I’d love to hear what your tastes in music are based on these images.

        1. Well spotted. Especially as it appears that in recent years it has been repainted. That picture was taken in the late 1980s using analogue (film, to you and me) which is clear from the colouring and dynamic range.
          You won't learn anything about music in Nepal or Tibet. My wife and I are very fond of Akram Khan, a Kathak dancer who is now a global star with his own company. We have seen every show he has done since his first one-man show 18 years ago. We are due to see his last show as performer in a few weeks. He was lucky to be good friends with Nitin Sawhney from his youth and Nitin performed in some of his early shows. Kathak is from the North of India, the best musicians and music (e.g. Sufi) is from the South. AK has used a range of superb instrumentalists in his shows, but the standout is B C Manjunath, a tabla player of utter brilliance and international status. He does an astonishing solo on Sawhney's One Zero (uncredited). Sawhney produces (and performs with) Anoushka Shankar (Traces of You is a sublime album, with vocals by her half-sister Norah Jones). AS is married to Joe Wright (separation unfortunately announced today), who has just directed "Darkest Hour", a superb film in cinemas now.

  4. Sometimes building the audio system (s) takes our whole adult life, and on the way we necessarily learn, and as we learn we develop our ability to know what is right, or not so well, in a kind of learning that normally fills us of rejoicing, so that long road is what matters as it enriches us with wisdom, I agree that what we achieve is not so important, because this is most often linked to the cost of the equipment that in the Today is exaggerated more than before, and it is not worthwhile to spend hundreds of thousands of euros for the mere fact of having the resources, without even knowing in most cases, what we are buying.

    Again the Hart Audio D & W Aural Pleasure of: US $ 6,744,000.-


  5. For those who do not want to access the link, for the price indicated above, you get a 2 way speaker on stands, the difference is that it is 24 K gold.

    This offer seems more aimed at the talc capos than for audiophiles.

  6. My journey is as JosephLG stated or there about..."It's the sharing of the journey that is most inspirational to yourself and others"
    I personally have been involved in music since my cousin was playing 45's on a SEARS record player. Not much in quality but you swung your hips to the music and my cousin and her friends grooved to the likes of the Everly Brothers.
    From that point growing up on my 14th birthday I was given a Sears Stereo with a fold out turntable and detachable speakers. I was in heaven. My first album? "HELP". I was and still am a BIG fan with the Fab four who I believe are the Beethoven's of R&R IMO. Through the years music my music palate has changed to many different venues but they are still in my portfolio.
    I found myself growing, taking small steps reading Stereo review, Home Theater Magazines and anything I could get my hands on to try to acquire my music nirvana. There are speakers I have owned that I wish I had never given up. I always had to trade in or sell in order to step it up a notch with my equipment. I wish that were not the case. My first big deal speak was ElectroVoice, then when the introduction of KEF Q series first came to the states I was in love all over again.
    There were many others and my journey encountered many mistakes on my part. Receiver or pre-amp, BIC to Thorens, the correct cartridge and again do I want to upgrade my speakers?
    I felt while my journey was long....decades...looking back it was costly. At the time I never gave it a thought of what stepping it up meant. It has many faces along with many $$ however without taking the next step I knew there would be no forward movement in my young quest for "THAT SYSTEM"
    Now at a ripe age, an after being introduced to an entire new venue that I thought I could never afford I am comfortable in my nest of musical nuances.
    I stepped into the world of tubes about two years ago along with my first pre-amp/dac.
    When it comes to speakers I was always a B&W guy.
    Some people simply HATE B&W and that's fine but IMO they are the most natural sounding to my ears. I had a pair of B&W804S speakers and sold them for half of what I had paid for them owning them for 9nine years. They were in pristine condition with orginal boxes and manuals. This let me step it up a notch in speakers and I was also able to afford a pair of mono-block tube amplifiers that make my speakers sing.

    What I don't understand is that I find belonging to a few forums is the idea that some people change their equipment like underware and socks. They don't take the time to appreciate what they have and weigh out what real differences they will achieve in making changes that afford only minute changes or sounds...it's as if they are going to have an epiphany!
    Hats off to audiophiles that have that luxury but my question is...does it make sense and I do not just mean financially.
    Buying amplifiers one week and literally selling them the next week is to me not taking in the EXPERIENCE, being appreciative and taking in the enjoyment of the music experience.

    Thanks Paul,

  7. Experimenting to find he best kit for ones ears is much more expensive today then back in the old audiomart days. Back then one could afford to buy 2 of something then sell them with minimal loss if they did not improve the enjoyment

  8. I agree with needing an end goal. There are a lot of audiophile folks stuck in the journey itself. You know the type. Every time you go to listen to their system it’s new equipment, but the same couple dozen songs. They play half of the track and then jump to a new one, when some “cool effect” is done.

  9. Classical music listener here.

    If the system does a good job reproducing pitch, dynamic range, timbre, rhythm and contrapuntal complexity I let it sit. On average, my system stays unchanged for 5 years.

    Sometimes "good enough" is good enough.
    If I want "absolute sound" I go to live performances. I'm fortunate to live in an area with a large university and lots of musical options.

    I remember selling a pair of ProAc speakers and the buyer had gone through 12 amplifiers in as many months. Absolute foolishness.

  10. I think the journey is (usually) and should be fun! But there can be less happy phases, too

    I’d say the journey is fun when a very basic goal is achieved: that‘s when one‘s satisfied with a current status and could live with it even if he tries to improve it further from time to time.

    1. The fun is drastically reduced when a cheap hard disk recorder with ripped RBCDs sounds much better than the megabuck cd transport both feeding the same DAC! Or the DAC is suddenly not upgradable to new formats in contrast to the manufacturer’s claims.

  11. Actually, I think that’s one of the best attributes of the DSD. IMHO,An upgrade is more qualitative than quantitative.I find that I get just as much enjoyment out of a firmware upgrade as I do from a new speaker amplifier. So something like once a year we get our “ upgrade fix “ free, courtesy of Paul McGowan .

  12. Thinking about some posts around paulsquirrel I must say that generally it would make much more sense to end at least the hard part of the journey as soon as possible and use the time for deeper exploring music instead!

  13. The revolutionary, Trotsky, wrote that means and ends are integrally related ("Their Morals and Ours"). It's meaningless, or mentally unstable, to pursue journeys without meaningful destinations. Likewise, it's not particularly helpful to have destinations without plans how to get there. And a manufacturer of audio equipment that of necessity focuses more on the journey should offer a disclaimer. Perhaps a discussion of destinations in audio equipment journeys is in order. Otherwise, it's just endless consumerism.

  14. I put together a playlist this evening of about a dozen recordings of Beethoven's 4th Diabelli variation, chosen for it's dynamics and length (just under a minute). They ranged from the 1960s to one released this week. The range in audio quality due presumably to microphone placement and mixing was so extraordinary, any colour provided by the audio system would seem to pale in comparison.

    1. Failure in the audio chain. I do not own top of the line (TOTL) audio equipment by any stretch of the imagination. So what? The second iteration of Goldenears but what bothered me was not the audio strengths of the speakers but the weaknesses. They really sounded muddy down low. I added holographs (a pair) hmmm they improved depth and space and instrument placement. Yay! Still muddy down low. Remove the black sock covering...a little better. Lets take those speaker bases off and screw in some Big Brass Footers and place the whole mess on top of 4 inch thick maple blocks with brass footers on them, adjust toe in and distance from back wall. OMG! That only took me 5 years to realize this sound that I hear now. And Maybe this is good enough. I think this is the best theese speakers can sound. My 2cents. Now I need to upgrade from this Bluesound DAC to something Awesome! It seems to me the obvious choice is PSA Junior DAC. This upgrade won't take 5 years but hopefully much sooner.

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