Wild berries

June 26, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Wild berries and homegrown tomatoes burst with flavor unavailable in the supermarket.

Like the difference between the food from a corporately sanitized restaurant vs. the daring creations of a street-food vendor, it's often the smaller innovator that delights us most.

Not all of us are comfortable with venturing out from the safety of the regular kind. Buying produce from the farmer's market is riskier than from the safety of the supermarket.

In audio, it's often more comforting to just head down to the dealer and say, "sign me up!"

For the adventurous few, the opportunity to cobble together a unique amalgam of speakers, electronics, and cables is a juicy alternative to what everyone else is doing.

Not all of us are comfortable with new and different.

For the bold few willing to throw caution to the wind, there's a chance at wonderfulness.

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23 comments on “Wild berries”

  1. I've never liked the packaged approach to buying audio. I'm a mix and match guy. Started in 1974. Some things worked well and some did not. That's how you learn.

    1. +2.
      I now have (5) manufacturers represented in the setup.

      Rega for vinyl front end
      Jay's Audio for CD transport
      Pass Labs for line stage preamp
      PS Audio DAC & regenerator
      Sanders Sound Systems hybrid 'stats and amplifiers.

  2. Interesting post coming from a world wide “One Quick Stop” audio provider. (From doing the recordings to supplying all the equipment)

    There’s a convenience of the “we have it all” shopping market / center.
    There’s a lot of reward that can come from the local farmers market. Fresh, tasty, and a chance to meet the people who grow and process your food - plus they don’t have to have it shipped from all over the world.

    For those who like to ‘cobble unique amalgams’ the choices and combinations seem endless.
    For those who like to have someone put things together for them, then they just have to put up with limited choices.

    In some ways the later choice is more like the farmers market - you only get what’s in season.

  3. Why stop at just buying from a farmer’s market? My wife has a small plot at our community garden growing carrots, onions and herbs. Next year she may try heirloom tomatoes (risky in the Texas heat).

    Since my speaker build should be complete this year, perhaps next year I will test my soldering skills an build an amplifier 😉

  4. I think the biggest/difference making choice is speakers. They are the lifeblood of the system, giving the system its voice. After that, I don’t find massive, difference making differentiation between the rest of the components. They just need to be compatible to the speakers, and of the proper/relevant quality.

    If I were to rebuild a system from scratch, I would spend 95% of my effort listening to speakers, and really not sweat too much over the rest. PS Audio, Legacy Audio, PBN Audio and limited others have the distinct advantage of making high end electronics and speakers. They voice the whole system from beginning to end. I don’t know why I wouldn’t take advantage of that. Where you get into trouble is when you start mixing and matching every system component engineered with differing preferred sonic attributes.

    Let’s say you found Magnepans to be your preferred speaker. I would still try to stay consistent with the rest of the system. I would rather go PS Audio, Bryston, PBN Audio, etc. all the way through. Problems start when you do stuff like mixing a Bryston preamp with PS Audio amps being fed with a PBN Audio DAC using a McIntosh CD transport.

    You end up with a system that isn’t coherent, and start going down the maddening rabbit hole of then tweaking connections and sound with power cords, interconnects, etc. to try and make up for self inflicted gaps.

    1. It’s a sensible approach to stick with one manufacturer for all the electronics but when you think back to ‘the good old days’ mix and match was necessary because high end manufacturers specialised in just the one component for example amplifiers or turntables. It’s becoming less so, but still true today for some. My amp manufacturer doesn’t make dac’s, neither does my dac producer make amps so I have to mix and match. Fortunately through luck or judgement, I’m figuring quite a lot of luck, it’s evolved into a system I really enjoy.

    2. I fully agree with the logic behind loudspeaker-importance and voicing (of a specific) stereo chain.But in the end this means that there is always a brand- (house-) sound based on manufacturers‘ preferences for circuits and components/parts including DAC-chips etc.. And don’t forget the specific listening room acoustics. Thus finally it requires that you duplicate the manufacturer‘s set-up and listening room - or you better optimize your sound via a state-of-the-art DSP! 🙂 However I have the impression that the majority of buyers makes their choice based on styling aspects, brand image, status aspects and budget of course.

    3. And sometimes it can end-up very coherent & more importantly very synergistic.
      My shining example was an Audio Alchemy DDE v1.0 DAC with a 10x (6amp)
      upgraded power supply, a pair of Denon POA-4400 monoblocs & a pair of
      Harbeth HL-Compact loudspeakers atop a pair of QED 17" Tristands, all
      hooked up with Furukawa 7N, PCOCC interconnect & loudspeaker wires.
      This rig was just brilliant, in 1993.

  5. To me, PSA (and several other manufactures of great audio gear) offers a premium all-in-one shopping experience, akin to the higher end supermarket chains (like Whole Foods). HF offers very fresh produce-dairy-meat-etc. products directly from the farms, growers and producers that is not only close to the street vendor's quality, but has a well regulated product that you can consistently trust. Absolutely nothing wrong choosing the high end A-I-O food market places!

    Although more challenging and time consuming (for some, years/decades), an individual piecing together a synergistic balance of various components, cabling, speakers (ingredients) and room (preparation) can be very rewarding. Potentially offering a tremendous holographic presentation of a live event (delectable delights), it also facilitates auditory knowledge and growth (great recipes) with deep personal satisfaction in the achievement of reproducing the emotional musical experience in your own home venue (Ahhh, I'm Full)!! 😉

  6. I like the mix and match approach but you have to be careful it doesn’t end up as a case of just mix. Perhaps I’m thinking more here of the way some people are dressed 😉

  7. If the different equipment of one manufacturer is comparably leading and if I don’t intentionally want to go into a higher price/quality level or different concept for one of them (which is only available from others), I try to stay with one manufacturer. This can mean I have two components of one (excelling in both) and two components of another (excelling in both) rather than 4 different components.

  8. ((((For the bold few willing to throw caution to the wind, there’s a chance at wonderfulness.)))

    Ah, the world, & audio world can indeed be mudalicious and puddle wonderful.

    e. e. Cummings tells us so

  9. I like to be conservative, however, I took a big chance on buying a used power amp that was very different from what I previously had. It has worked out very well so far, however, I still feel it was a very big gamble. Whenever possible it is best to stay in your comfort zone and be very careful when you venture out of it.

  10. When a company like Sterophile for example categorize components class A to D in sound quality those listening reviews are all done with mixing and matching many different high quality components. Rarely are any components from the same manufacturer and still they produce class A and B out of those reviews which are the best quality sound. Maybe the best of them are not as finicky with matching the same maker. Could it also be that a product that lands in class C or D could have had a higher rating if they were matched with the same maker? Does the sum of synergy put class C and D components in the same as class A and B? I'm not so sure of that. It might. Mixing and matching class A and B components are what will probably get you the best sound. Keep in mind that Stereophiles class C and D can give you very satisfying sound close to state of the art. C and D are not like grades handed out by your teacher. Just being classified A to D in Stereophile is a great achievement. Not all get a grade or are recommended by them regardless of price. Been some pretty good battles in the manufacturers response in the back of their magazine by disgruntled manufacturers. A product needs to sound great whether in a mixed or non mixed environment. The best ones do.

  11. I agree. Incremental cobbling together is the way most of us have built our systems, out of necessity. With each new component upgrade we boldly threw caution to the wind. The results are wonderful, except for the credit card bills...LOL.

    1. I can assure you that spending as much on your speakers as most people would spend on a nice BMW results in a real sonic improvement that cannot be mistaken for imagination. Yes it is a lot to spend and it took me nine months of auditioning to decide how to spend it.

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