The progress spiral

June 23, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

One of our HiFi Family members mentioned to me the other day they sometimes felt as if they were on the upgrade merry-go-round. With each new piece of gear he bought from us the system got noticeably better to the point where he realized the other components were needing an upgrade as well.

I think of this not as a merry-go-round but more of a progress spiral. With each return to the start, we’re actually in a different (and better) place. Along the journey we learn and grow so that when we circle back progress has been made.

The new BHK600 amplifier is a good example. I knew it would be better than the BHK300, but this much? Within 30 minutes of the new 600 warming up and music playing I found myself in a whole new world of musical wonder. My familiar music was fresh and new. Unknown details in the music were revealed to me.

I started noticing more differences between sources.

There was a greater gap between streaming and playing on the transport.

Maybe that could be addressed with a cable swap or, more basic, should I readjust my speakers again?

Each step up the progress ladder brings us back around to have a look at the assumptions and changes that got us here.

It is how we move forward.

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35 comments on “The progress spiral”

  1. God willing I will win the lottery one day 😀

    Spiral has negative connotations…”Spiralling down the rabbit hole”.
    I’d rather go with ‘The progress ascendance’ with regard to this Paul’s Post ✌

    PS Audio BHK-600 soon to be released??

    1. I was thinking Vortex or Apotheosis. I suspect Paul would prefer apotheosis as I think he considers audio a religious experience. I was reminded of Noel Coward’s play ‘The Vortex’, about the descent into drug addiction and sexual vices. Sounds like audio to me, so maybe Vortex after all.

      Owners of BHK300 amplifiers are not going to be happy.

      1. Haha…vortex…sex…drugs…audio addiction 😉
        Maybe not if PS Audio are still doing their
        “We’ll buy your old gear back at full retail” deals.

    2. Progress Ascendence or Progress Dependance?

      You better win the Lottery big! A couple of Million for the best gear. Double that to build the proper infrastructure to house said gear. Then a few hundred K/year to keep up with changes, subscriptions, tweaks and the like.

      Start drawing up the plans now 😀 you’re feeling lucky…. ✌️ 😉

      1. “Do you feel lucky punk?
        Well, do you?”

        Well Mike, when you put it that way, I think I’ll just go
        back to my old 1966 Philips portable cassette deck.

        1. My luck usually starts with an “F”
          If you’re going back to 66 then remember all you know now …. It’ll make the next 45 years easier…

  2. A side topic:
    when speaking about disc and streaming comparisons, it would be very much appreciated to mention the conditions of streaming compared with, as they make so much difference (online or own storage streaming, if the latter..Flac or AIF/WAV, measures taken like galvanic isolation or dedicated streamer or just PC/MAC etc.). I think many here just read rough statements, but as so often and especially also here, general conclusions may be misleading, depending on what was actually compared.

    Maybe this can be an own topic some time. You seem to do disc/streaming comparisons quite often. What was the outcome, depending on the various preconditions possible for streaming?

    1. I agree Jazznut. There are too many vague things often stated. Local streaming – internet streaming is the exact same file being played? What is the streamer to DAC connection? Was any of it done wirelessly? And probably the biggest variable question…. What is really being compared? The I2 buss to the USB buss to the Ethernet hardwire? The file format? The cabling and the galvanic isolation? Power supply architecture?

      For me, Like you, learning and discussing specifics is what moves things forward in addition to increasing knowledge.

  3. I fully agree. This is a neverending spiral for some of us. Removing one weak link often develops another. I’m enjoying the ride though.

  4. Spiraling out of control is what comes to my mind when I read the this. I do not like the idea of spiraling, it makes me think of an airplane in a disastrous tail spin.

    There are two ways to upgrade your system. You can do it all at once. This way is scary because you can get it wrong and then your stuck with trying to fix it. However, if you have a system that is clearly outdated and you want better sound this will get you there quickly. I have done this three times and in each case the old system was about 15 years old.

    The other way to upgrade is one piece at a time. This way is a steadier approach to upgrading and not as scary. You can carefully listen to each new piece of gear and be sure it right. I took me about four years to do a complete upgrade.

  5. Another definition for those on the march – an inclined plane wrapped around a cylindrical axis… or to put it another way “ What would you be if you were attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis?” 😀

    The march can happen when the spiral plane is horizontal – then it’s a whole bunch of ups and downs – if the spiral is plane is oriented vertically then it should make the climb easier, but does it?

    The following is not a rant just an observation….

    IMO – Todays post brings out the the marketing genius of ‘hooking’ someone (specifically of the male genre). This week a new amplifier… OH wait! That amplifier now shows up the weaknesses in the source… we went from the best to even better. Next a new source… then an even better preamp… in the mean time your source material is flawed… now your speaker doesn’t covey what the electronics are capable of. Your input power is flawed…. Your interconnects are constrictors…. Your room is not adequate… but we have a solution to it all, and soon we’ll have even better solutions. But then again you need it now… ✌️ 😉

    This all happens as components and designs improve. Obviously the audio industry isn’t even close to reaching the pinnacle or its lofty goal.

    Each rotation around the spiral, especially if it is represented in 2D, gets you farther away from the starting point. But unlike doing it in a straight line it is a circular route and increases the distances between the points of the overall audio journey.

    We all have a starting point when it came to home 2 channel audio. The differences between us is how long we stay on the spiral. Anybody dizzy yet?

    1. I have always viewed my audio journey as a climb up a mountain. A mountain I choose to climb. We should all remember that here in the free world no one is forcing us to participate in home audio. This is a choice, a hobby and an enjoyment. If it is no longer an enjoyment why are you doing this?

      1. I didn’t say anything about not enjoying. Plus I’m well aware of my choices and the ones I have made.
        The spiral route may be easier. Have you reached the top yet, or are you stopped to take a “breather”? Did you go straight up the cliff face or meander around?

        1. Heck, I’ve been meandering the upward “audiophile spiral” these past 46 years! Must be getting close to nirvana, as my last purchase was supplemental O2!! 😉

          1. Hey Theo
            Remember it’s the journey that counts…
            Look I made it… aww shit! … I thought that sign said nirvana not norvana… ✌️ 😀

        2. I feel that I have gone pretty much straight up with I few jogs here and there to get to where I am now. Unfortunately for me at my age the climb is all but over. It is time for me to sit back and enjoy what I have for as long as I can. I hope I still have one or two steps left in me, but only time will tell.

          1. You’ve got the steps and the drive left in you Tony…. Maybe the steps don’t have quite the same amount spring or speed, maybe the drive clutch slips a little now and then. Enjoyment and personal satisfaction is the key – no “regerts” – just new challenges

          2. The climb ain’t over Tony, there’s just a handrail involved and we don’t do the jumping skip-every-odd stair maneuver anymore. And don’t look back down!
            Y’know, I’ve been monitoring their growth for years & the run/jump/roll/flip/twist/climb/balance skill abilities of those (amazing) Boston Dynamic biped robots seem to be advancing at the EXACT same rate as my ability to do the same diminishes!
            Those conniving SOB’s aren’t advancing technology, they’ve scientifically found a way to thieve our physical abilities and inject them into their goddang robots!! 😉

      1. A respondent here had a great line…. AA… same steps program – just the name changed to Audioholics Anonymous…. The reason many here write with aliases?

  6. I think these threads should be retitled ‘Paul’s Positive Post’s’. My first thought was like Fat Rat’s, spirals can be downwards. Buy that lemon I mentioned yesterday and it won’t be seen as progress. I tried a new component in my system recently, not PSA, but another respected and very well reviewed product. Without going into lengthy descriptions of the sound, it was by no means terrible btw but the bottom line was I just didn’t enjoy it, so it went back.

    More generally, as to progress, I often wonder, is it really? Take online banking for example. I love the way the banks say they’re closing branches because customers are moving online, something the banks very much pushed (forced) us towards. Yes it’s undeniably progress but is it positive progress? I doubt anyone who has lost their local branch and doesn’t have access to a computer thinks so. Then there’s progress in refuse collection, we have to take the bin’s out. For the gas and electricity companies we are now conscripted unpaid meter readers. Yes, there are smart meters but so far round here they have been something of a fiasco.

    Ahh, a general moan, that feels better, now back to the hi-fi…and relax.

  7. All the audiophile improvements in the world won’t fix those favourite albums that were – pardon my digression for effect – just so bloody shittily mixed or recorded. In fact, they quite often make them MORE disappointing. No regrets in my delightful journey, but one of the sad side effects of high end gear is that it tends to ‘amplify’ the gap between well and poor source material. However I’m certain there is a solution. My dream – a room with a my resolving setup on one wall, a spinning chair, and on the opposite wall a Bryston/LaScala type lipstick on a pig rock system. Because those crappily recorded albums actually sounded better on the systems of my past that I thought (at the time) were ‘great gear’. On my current rig, they just become that kid who comes home with a dangling earring, a face tattoo, a purple mowhawk, a guitar, a beat up van, a pouting goth stripper girlfriend exclaiming “Dad, I dropped out of college and me n Annatola are gonna travel the world and just be!” Ya, still love there, but buried amidst lost hope and sheer disappointment.

    So one system was the dream, now I want a SECOND one.

    Yeah, Just stand back and throw money at it…

  8. Progress in this hobby stays with you for a while. When you discover a piece of equipment or do a tweak and the improvements are quite large it makes you feel really good that you did that for yourself. I love the feeling and I love this hobby. Always room to grow and try different things.

    For the record. That Dan D’Agostino power Amplifier called “The Relentless” looks like quite the end game.

    1. This is going to be a bit off topic ( just a bit ). I believe in the motto “Form Follows Function”. Thus I have always judged audio gear on sound and not on looks. I am fortunate to have a Constellation Audio Hercules II stereo power amp ( which I bought used ). It is a wonderful sounding amp, however, I will admit that it looks like a huge block of metal that some machine shop is going to turn into and engine block. Yet it sits in the middle of the main room of our house much to my wife’s displeasure ( although she lies the way it sounds too ).

      Having said this, I draw the line at the way DD’s amps look ( not that I could ever afford to by a new one ). To me they look like something in the Beatles Yellow Submarine movie or one of those disgusting one eyed Minions.

      End of rant.

        1. This is what happens when a) you are a terrible typist and b) you rely on a spell checker ( both likes and lies are words ) and c) you do not proof read. 🙁

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