Ratchet of change

July 16, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

While it is true change can happen with the flip of a switch it is more likely to occur in small ratcheted increments.

Big events like the time years ago when one of the Genesis loudspeakers I had traveled halfway around the world to set up fell over and broke in half, are certainly instant life changing events. But they are the exception, not the rule.

In fact, most of the changes in our HiFi system (and our lives) happen in steps along the journey. It might feel life-changing when we add that new power amplifier or change those speakers, but in fact, it is just part of a long chain of events that got you here in the first place.

It is probably beneficial to most of us to remember that each step of the journey gets us closer to where we want to be: moving forward.

In the end, I believe it is forward movement that we all seek. Progress and change simply provide the steps for us to get there.

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22 comments on “Ratchet of change”

  1. The biggest change of sound quality in my existing stereo system happened when I swapped my Burmester preamp and mono power amps for vacuum tube gear from Unison Research (preamp and mono power amp (triode 845)). I never ever got significant improvements by swapping CD-transports or DACs or interconnects for line level. Every new loudspeaker has its own „sound“ but huge improvements? The most significant improvements in sound-staging (3-D imaging) and resolution of finest details I got by inter-speaker crosstalk cancellation and „speaker & room correction“ (Trinnov Audio). It’s also rewarding to play with footers (mechanical grounding) and power cables/speaker cables.

  2. Paul, I have to ask...
    What's the next step for you in this seemingly endless home-audio journey?
    What size ratchet are you using?

    I suspect that "different strokes for different folks" truly applies here.
    There are those who's quest for home-audio perfection is endless & others who hear
    the synergy within a rig & decide that that's where they will stop & just enjoy the music.

    Maybe Mick Jagger said it the best..."'cause I try & I try & I try & I try"... 😉

    1. Thanks, Martin. For me, I cannot wait to get my BHK 600s back (thieves in engineering ran off with them again). But, perhaps in the bigger picture, there's a whole new era of generational products just over the horizon for us and I am salivating to get my hands on them: DSII, and AirLens in finished form just for starters.

  3. The thing is, there are for sure quite a few who on their journey experienced what it’s all about at the end and what would be the most cost effective way to get there in steps or directly (given a certain price level) and what to avoid. But this advice is certainly not asked for (and it would certainly be different, depending whom one asks). Everyone wants to go the same, own insanely expensive journey and many will even never hear great Hifi on this journey. That’s life, not only in audio.

    To be honest, finally I’m quite sure there is not even a big range of different sound quality taste, maybe a few different priorities. I never experienced disagreement over really good sounding setups so far.

  4. Paul, you’re obviously a positive person. I like to think I am too, but in the interests of balance feel it’s only fair to point out that a step doesn’t always get us closer to where we want to be. It could be a sideways step or even worse, a backwards step. Mistakes can and do happen.
    Of course we seek forward movement but, more generally, progress and change doesn’t necessarily bring universal benefits. So often these days it seems the benefit is for those that instigated the change.

  5. It’s hard to believe that anyone who is into HiFi is not trying to move forward. It comes down to how fast and how far the forward movement is. Looking at things from a design / manufacturer point of view the road has to lead you forward, think of the gasps when the marketing claims become “step back to yesterdays designs, they are the best”. Looking at things from that side of the fence it’s easy to say hey my reference gear has almost reached a pinnacle, what do I do? I know I’ll start my own studio and record in a way that brings out the best in what I’m selling.

    From a pragmatic consumer point of view the value of change is what many take into account. For example - Has the technology bar moved so much that it warrants a big expenditure? How much is the change gaining me? It’s easy to find something that sounds different. Not so easy to find what plays best in any given listening environment or perfectly well together.
    The amount of choices and combinations of audio gear are overwhelming. All the gear does is provide a way for us to enjoy the music we enjoy.

    What the manufacturers prefer to present is how can you enjoy the music when your equipment is not fully up to snuff?

      1. There’s nothing wrong in believing 😀 if you’re gonna design and build you better believe.

        What separates PSA is the openness to allow discussions and differing perspectives. For that I say thank you.

        Personally I’ve reached a plateau point in my current set up. Trying to decide what direction to go in amplification (my weak link in my opinion) has left me a little raw and somewhat cynical when I start looking and comparing.

  6. Commitment is a mission. In manufacturing and the public space it's success or setback.
    Everyone has their personal and public mission. It keeps us going. For PS Audio it's better audio. And thank goodness for that.

  7. Things change. I'm at the point where I'm good not moving "forward". If I thought I was never going to move again, I would probably go for larger Maggies, but I'm generally quite happy with my system. Honestly, it's a relief.

    PS..Had to log in again. Today's puzzle was identifying fire hydrants. Fun.
    I will probably also get an email saying my login was flagged as being suspicious.

  8. I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments thus far. A lot of you said it best weather talking about the steps of change and basically what size Ratchet is one using to fix what they want to fix.

    If I can focus on the positive. My biggest change was getting a top of the line tube amplifier.I also did research into tube synergy to complement the amp well as well as my tastes.
    Getting into tubes has been the most dramatic change for me yet. I’m experiencing so much difference in my music and in some cases better audio quality.
    At least I know my bloody ratchet works. 🙂

  9. I have been very fortunate in my audio journey. I was able to always move forward and made very large steps forward which, however, were spaced out over roughly 15 year intervals. What has always perplexed me is that the thing that made my audio journey possible was due to a serious life threatening accident.

    When I was 19 and attending a mediocre state college I had a very serious appendicitis. My appendix had become gangrenous and if it had ruptured I might have died. Fortunately, it was removed in time and while I was recuperating a friend talked me into applying to a top notch private university. To my surprise I got into the university and even got a scholarship to cover half of my tuition.

    Attending that university totally changed my life. I suddenly went from being born into and raised in a lower class blue collar neighborhood to having fellow students whose parents were doctors, lawyers, scientist and successful businessmen. I discovered that there were people who did not paycheck to paycheck. I learned what it meant to be a professional and have goals in life instead of just surviving.

    To this day it haunts me that my life is what it is due to an accident that I had no control over. I realize how fortunate I have been, but I am always wondering why me and not someone else.

  10. If only it were just a ratchet..... but a ratchet needs sockets. Lots of 'em. Metric and standard ones. And just when you're happy with your set, the black chrome set comes out.
    Hey, not a complaint, I LOVE this crazy obsession.
    My mono-sockets and true ratchet tweeters go best with a nice Islay Scotch.

    Next time a non-audiophile asks: "What does a $4,000 speaker cable/DAC/amplifier offer that, say, a $100 cable/DAC/amplifier doesn't?"
    The correct response is: "Ok, replace the words "speaker cable/DAC/amplifier" with purse, watch, necklace, painting, dress, refrigerator, sunglasses, haircut, dinner, ring, pet dog, bicycle, lawn mower, high heel shoes or hooker. Because if you need to ask..." 😉

  11. Very true. If one is particular about the final outcome then one must be prepared for a long journey of changes. Once the goal is reached the feeling of satisfaction is enormous. Audio journey has many ups and downs but sticking to one's goal always pays. Regards.

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