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rmeyer52
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John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

I have to say that it was a real pleasure reading John Mark's column but I do have a few thoughts. According to the article the average Stereophile reader spends $12-$15K on a system. While that may not seem like a lot of money to some I can assure you that I believe it's a hell of a lot of money. Anyone that can spend that much is surely blessed! However one surely have a great system for a lot less. The Paradigm Studio 100 speakers that I have continue to astound me with their sound both range and depth. While my amp and preamp are not reviewed here in Stereophile I am very happy with their performance.

However Mr Marks overlooks one thing: there is nothing better that bringing home a new hi-fi component, opening the box and sitting back and listening to some of your favorite tunes. Sure there are a lot of people who want a system for "life" but come on isn't fun to upgrade once in awhile?

The total cost of my system is $6,800 including cables and interconnects and right now I am listening to some really nice Hank Crawford after a long day. It's not that I want to spend more or less it what I wanted based upon research and reviews and I am enjoying every minute of it. Someday maybe I'll maybe think of upgrading again but right now I am enjoying what I have more than ever. Sure buy it once and buy it right maybe nice for some people but I am sure that in the future I will want to tweak my system to see if I can get better sound and bring home that box that takes me further up the path to audio heaven...

Zman9001
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

I could probably write "Buy it the first time and totally screw it up" haha, actually, for what I paid I'm satisfied with my system.
But, in all seriousness, Rich, I totally agree with you about upgrading; how sweet is it to unplug one box and replace it with another box and go "whoa, did something right"?
Since I've gotten back into reproduction quality after a short excursion into quantity I've only spent about $1100 on... wow that's the first time I've added it up and it actually made my knees weak when I got the total. Jeez, (now I'm chuckling) I had no idea I spent that much. Yeah, I know a grand is a drop in the hat to most of you buggers but to me its a decent chunk.
What in god's name was my point? Ah yes, I've only spent $1100 (stock interconnects, no room treatments, yadda, yadda) BUT, boy am I enjoying alot of music! And that's the point, right? Listen and enjoy, then upgrade when there's a few spare bucks.

mrlowry
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

. . .plus wouldn't this "buy it once" thought process probably put our beloved Stereophile out of business or at the very least deal it a HUGE blow. It's certainly a case of "be careful what you wish for . . ."

Jan Vigne
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

Speaking as someone who has owned the same amplifiers for over twenty five years, I feel JM's comments are worth considering on several counts. Personally, I hold on to equipment until I feel there is an obvious reason to change. My last turntable, a VPI HW19 mkII, stayed around with various upgrades for over twenty years and was only just recently replaced with a VPI Aries Scout. The Rega RB300 stayed. I built new speakers last year to replace my LS3/5a's; they themself were designed in the mid 1970's, my pair was built in 1976 and I've owned them for the last twenty one years. My pre amp is equally as ancient. I chuckle when I see threads in which components newer than my favorite CD are referred to as "vintage". Minimal cost upgrades have kept me satisfied for many years and careful intial selection to suit my existing priorities has served me well. I am interested in finding the point of diminishing returns that suits my budget since I feel that is where I get the most enjoyment and longevity for my efforts.

As I read JM's recent columns, this IMO is his point. JM began his search with a specific destination in mind, to locate a system that replicates his concepts of music as fully as possible while minimizing cost and providing long component life. What are your personal priorities? Are you a music lover or an equipment freak? If the former, you'll find value in JM's current MapQuested journey. You'll also realize the bar has been set rather high when the intial jump has to clear that set by components which had shown relative ease in doing so only a decade or so prior. Obviously, audio progresses slowly but surely to allow more and more competitors to clear the past "best of" mark with room to spare. Sooner or later you'll have to realize where your existing system's best efforts fail to meet that competition. That said, my most favored components are those which show the wisdom of experience and not the flash of youth.

Far from putting magazines such as Stereophile out of business, this is exactly where Stereophile does its best work. Not too surprisingly given my history of ownership with components, my readership of Stereophile also dates back to the mid 1970's. How many veils have fallen, how many jaws have dropped in that time, how many times have I read "Nothing I have auditioned has performed so well as ..." or words to that effect? How many components have landed in class K only to gradually work their way to "Deletions; not auditioned recently"? In each case, too many to count. More importantly to me, too many to remember each individual passing. Stereophile serves as my barometer, not my thermometer. I don't buy a component just because its "hot". I set a new course because the conditions have shifted and the prevailing winds are improving. However, as with AD's recent columns, before I part with cash and a long favored component I have to ask myself, when new components are introduced each and every year, just how far has the audio industry moved and in what direction? What about those vintage products that made someone with equally good ears say, "This is music! What values are at work here?" I ask myself, what priorities do the new and old components share? Will the new mark likely stand for an equally long period of time or be eclipsed with next year's model? Is it worth the personal cost to make the leap over the new bar?

Therefore I read JM's column as a roadmap which in many ways mirrors AD's present journey. Dudley has for now decided to take the old Route 66, cruising past often forgotten stops in Rolla, Missouri, Shamrock, Texas and Barstow, California while JM is on the eight lane interstate marking time. Neither is wrong, hopefully both get you to the same destination but what you see and take away with you along the way is vastly different. While AD is set on visiting all the locations your parents thought wonderful JM is finding what raises the bar for the next generation of travellers.

I see JM's column as a guidebook pointing out where to stop if you want the Twitter accounting of today's trip. Rather than spending the night under flashing neon lights and buying a few nifty-keen souvenirs at The Wigwam Motel as AD is doing, JM is looking for the exit number on the present day highway leading to The Point of Diminishing Returns. Yes, you can spend considerably less than what JM has set as his budget and still have a satisfying system, but I feel JM's main point would be that most listeners would agree the next exit point up the road allows for improvements in at least several areas when you stop short of your intended destination. So where does the journey slow to a crawl? Where does going further not gain equal amounts of enjoyment? That is what JM is has set as his destination and what he is hoping to find. Where does your dollar set the bar so high that only the top few percent of players can make the jump? JM doesn't require a world record, just the height any serious contender must reach to be considered competitive.

There will always be better, of that there should be no doubt. That is the nature of technology. Keep in mind and be aware, as AD points out, that with new models each year offering such progress it is easy to loose your way when the journey itself overarches the destination. You must know where you want to end the trip or else you will wander endlessly in search of the next delightful little resting place. However, if your final destination is owning a system that does so many things right that its few foibles become merely interesting personality traits rather than infuriating annoyances, then JM will point you on the right road to buying once and buying right. Spending time at The Point of Diminishing Returns has its advantages even if you don't come away with a neat little Wigwam keychain.

rmeyer52
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

Jan you of course bring up some very valid points but the hobby can also be fun and I have to admit that there is a lot of fun in researching and buying and bringing home that new component. I also think that over the years our tastes in music change as do our listening habits. I for example now spend a lot of time in my audio room listening to jazz & blues. I have come to appreciate that artistry of the recording as well as the musician himself. Although I am happy with my current system there is nothing I would love more that having the opportunity to add another piece in pursuit of sonic heaven.

tom collins
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

jan and rich: 2 very valid viewpoints. everyone here falls somewhere on the continuum. i like new stuff and look very hard for good value, but do not want to trade until i feel i have maxxed out what i have. for example, my turntable came with a good, low-level benz cart. it sounded good, but i had the chance to pickup a nearly new clear audio aurum beta s for $200. a great upgrade for a rediculously low price. the same with some cables i just picked up, an upgrade for my system, but i should be able to sell my prior nordost for the same money. now if i can just find a way to get that luxman integrated for $500...

Jan Vigne
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right


Quote:
... there is nothing I would love more that having the opportunity to add another piece in pursuit of sonic heaven.

Rich, don't take this wrong, but if that is true, you need to get a grip on reality. I'm talking to a friend right now who is addicted to this stuff and cannot stop himself. He has the money but that's beside the point. He is especially fond of those "too good to pass up" deals - which he spends his time searching out on the internet - whether they are synergistic combinations with his present system or not. Just last week he declared he was done and he was perfectly satisfied with his present system. Yesterday he found a good deal on a new amplifier. The deal might not be as good as he at first thought. Here's a bit from this morning's email, "The only down side to this is that I am all set now to own a "MC-XXX". This is not going to go away any time soon."

The thrill should not be in always acquiring new gear.

rmeyer52
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

Jan..as happy as anyone is with their system there are always going to be people who want to swap out and change or add new components. Remember that this is a hobby not an addiction. For example, as much as I like the Sony ES5400 CD player I have I would love to be able to afford an Ayre CD player. I too have seen some people who are always upgrading and a friend of mine has enough components in his backroom to put together 3 or 4 really good systems. In order to upgrade to the Emotiva I sold my Arcam Solo and got a good price for it. As happy as I am with my system if I hear something that blows me away I might want to consider adding it. That is part of the fun of being an audiophile...in addition of course to kicking back and listening to Al Kooper live !!

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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

I don't think it's a question of "addiction"; I've never seen anyone that bad...lol.

Let's face it; it's just a question of how sensitive you are to deviations from realism and accuracy in the sound, balanced against one's financial ability to get what you would like to have.

There is a big difference between what one really "needs" and what one feels they want and are willing to pay for.

For example; I had a 2000 Lincoln LS that was a magnificent handling car and very fast (it also had a GREAT Alpine sound system; even better than the best one in the big BMWs, in my opinion; never heard a better one in a car...). But I decided that I wanted a Toyota Prius, so I bought one. I certainly didn't NEED it, but I got it anyway, for a variety of reasons (environmental, better golf bag capacity, Bluetooth, nice navigation system etc. etc.).

I probably would have been happy as a clam with the LS for several more years, because it was a very fine car, and very reliable, but I got a bug for the 2008 Prius and I bought it; end of story.

Jan Vigne
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

As interesting as both of these posts are, I'm not sure how they relate to "Buy it once-buy it right". Isn't the idea of JM's column to propose a system that you can live with for a loooooong time?

rmeyer52
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

Something else to think about: A lot of people can't afford the "buy it once and buy it right" and have to settle for what they can afford

Jan Vigne
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right


Quote:
Something else to think about: A lot of people can't afford the "buy it once and buy it right" and have to settle for what they can afford

I think if you give it some consideration, that is JM's point. If your budget is restricted, you should choose wisely when you don't want to make expensive mistakes. Buying components two and three times to get where you wanted to be the first time out is what costs the most.

In my experience with many, many clients who were just starting out or on a tight budget not shopping as if this was the only time you were ever going to buy, or without thought to where you might go from here, will cost you, in the long run, much more the second and third and fourth time out - mostly because you are not buying smart, you are buying on a whim and without priorities.

We all understand JM's budget might not be everyone's budget, but the point here is where do diminishing returns become obvious not how cheaply can you get by. The end point I feel JM is trying to reach would be determined by the question, at what point do you not have to "settle for" something?

The Paradigm Atoms are a recommended component, a handful of budget amplifiers have been reviewed this year with good recommendations and the Oppo players still stand as good value. So, yes, you can put together a musical and largely satisfying system for well under JM's $3,5000 mark. However, as I've said before, most everyone would agree there are obvious improvements which can be made to a system put together on the lowest end of the price scale, there are improvements to be made to a system you have to "settle for". You know it as the boxes are being loaded into your car.

Where is the point at which you don't have to feel you are obviously settling for less? ST feels he has reached that point with his Harbeths, JM thinks (hopes) he can go lower priced than that. Settling then becomes relative to your budget and your priorities and what you might feel is settling for what you can afford is probably not the same as the next person.

That's is IMO JM's point, not that it can't be done less expensively but that he is hoping to find the right combination of components which will allow you to do it once and do it right and not feel as if you settled for second best.

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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

As part of discussing how much the average Stereophile reader has spent on his system, I don't think it should be interpreted as an amount of money that that audiophile plunked down in one big lump.

12-15 kilodollars may be where the average reader arrived, but not all in one fell swoop.

I wonder if "buy once" is actually an audiophile goal. I think we buy stepping stones, not entire sidewalks.

I also don't agree about the church story analogy and audiophilia.

With Hi Fi, we are talking about buying something good, then wanting better, not buying something that sucks and then finally ponying up more cash to 'do it right.'

I think we are more process oriented than we are definitive.

"Buy once" is more of a refrigerator or washing machine thing than a Hi Fi thing.

Now, that being said...I fully agree with JM about trying to minimize the number of times we need to upgrade a certain component in our systems.

I'm a believer in portioning out a budget for a 'tablula rasa' system with the knowledge that a future upgrade is likely to take place, and trying to focus on acquiring a "as definitive as possible" component or components that will remain as the audiophile follows his path toward 'better.' We all have our own fetishes for which type of component rules the roost regarding contribution to sonic performance; so, pick your fetish and try to really kill it when you assemble a system de novo. Then, you still save future cash with this style of 'buying once' and at the same time benefit from not having marshalled resources inapropriately on gear that, deep down, we know we will someday TRY to improve upon.

I think a lopsided new system is just fine, leaving room to grow.

_____

Now, why is it that if one voted for the losing Presidential candidate in 2004, it would have directly lead to socialism now?

rmeyer52
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

"Buy once" is more of a refrigerator or washing machine thing than a Hi Fi thing.

I agree with you on this. Taste change..technology changes and from what I here there is a new CD technology that they are working on in Japan that is going to provide a lot of great new stuff

Glotz
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

Very well put. Many times finding the proper balance that our ears want and crave requires many hours of comparison, searching and listening, to find that 'perfect' system. Moreover, a lot of times we find that as we grow as listeners, we may end up preferring another sonic trait over another that we used to feel very strongly about, like great, tight bass, vs. 3-d soundstaging, for instance. There simply is no easy way to buy an entire system vs. another entire system without auditioning the whole system in our own homes, and for most 'new' audiophiles, where is the reference point to be accustomed to? It takes years and years of honing and selecting the 'right' components for ourselves and our tastes. 'Buying once and buying right' doesn't seem entirely easy, or logical. A 'lop-sided' system has the ability to be honed in certain places, and corrected over time, if done carefully.

rmeyer52
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

I have also found that it's almost downright impossible to hear all the components that you want to audition at one dealer. They might carry the brand of speakers you're interested in but not the CD player or amp. I can see where some people, when they finally get the components they want, together feel that to them they may not meet their expectations.

The high end hi-fi market tends to be fragmented and you very rarely find one dealer who carries it all. Another good idea would be to list some of the better dealers who do have a broad selection here on Stereophile. Wine Spectator gives awards for restaurants that carry a good wine selection why not Stereophile awards for dealers based on assortment, service and willingness to help?

Buddha
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right


Quote:

Another good idea would be to list some of the better dealers who do have a broad selection here on Stereophile. Wine Spectator gives awards for restaurants that carry a good wine selection why not Stereophile awards for dealers based on assortment, service and willingness to help?

That's pretty cool!

I sometimes use the Wine Spectator list when travelling. Nice idea to spin that for audio!

KBK
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Re: John Marks-Buy It Once & Buy It Right

It's a bit of a tough one when something like a 'critical' magazine..which Stereophile by nature IS..starts doing things like rating stores.

That's a bit too close. In what way, this 'too close'?

It's a 'seeming' collusion type thing. Whether it be there or not, it's a bit tricky and VERY unfair to those they cannot reach for a visit. I'd say it's tough enough reviewing the gear and getting the magazine out, as it is.

Not that I really now anything about it..but musing a bit on the facts, the possibilities, and how people are..that's the answer I came up with.

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