The Holy Grail of High-end Audio

From my point of view the Holy Grail of High-end Audio is

  • not about technology
  • not about sound and resolution and dynamics [though they are so much fun!]
  • not even really about the music [though I have my preferences]
  • It is about the experience: how it makes me feel and the ‘places’ it takes me.

Haven’t been posting a lot lately. A lot of this is because we have kind of been stuck travelling around the solar system and out among the stars.

See, it just so happened that we got the big Acapella Apollon loudspeakers, the Audio Note flagship Gaku-on amplifiers and the flagship Harmonic Resolution Systems equipment rack AND Roon all at more or less the same time.

Didn’t plan it this way. Would have tried to avoid it if we could do it over again. But here we are.

The OVERWHELMING improvement in the quality and depth of the experience, over what was already one of if not THE best in the Bay Area [my apologies to those who are burnt out on the all the lying superlatives tinged with righteous indignation that the poor internet in drowning in these days – but how else am I to describe this experience?], has been so significant that my ability to focus and report on what we are hearing is extremely difficult.

Let’s come back to Earth and talk about Roon.

Our audacious goal had been to make Roon sound as good as or better than other most other systems when they play vinyl or CD.

We lucked out in that the Audio Note level 5 DACs are a great match for streaming music. Their design has always been great for making average redbook CDs sound like they are supposed to [as opposed to the majority of other DACs that emphasize the flaws and only sound good on ‘audiophile-grade recordings’]. And this has translated perfectly to making streaming music sound like it is supposed to.

When the industry went from vinyl to CD, all we got was a little more convenience. Going from CD to streaming, we got literally 1000s of times more music. For old timers like me this is like Christmas over and over and over again.

I thought I had all of Frisell’s albums. Nope. And Jarre’s and Floyd’s and Neil’s. Nope. So many [new to me] albums of my favorite artists to be played. And more or less for free. [ And I can find them when I want to 🙂 ]

And they sound GREAT.

I mean, what can I say? [I can say the EMM Labs NS1 is a big step up over the old Auralic streamer. More detail, flatter response, less grunge. There you do, standard audiophile stuff]

This whole thing has been almost a religious experience [and I wonder about that ‘almost’]. The experience is ongoing …and I will write more about the Experience until I am better able to write about the nitty gritty audiophile details.

The cover photo is from the 10 hour long video [it gets boring after like a minute, IMO, but cool idea]:


The Joy of “Different”

Image above of the sea, copyright CSG Ltd.,

The Joy of “Different”. The absolute joy of hearing an often very, VERY familiar song with a different sound than what we are used to.

This drives so much of the commerce in our industry as well as providing so much of the pleasure [for me anyway] but it is not talked about much.

Yes, it is related to ‘upgrading’ and certainly ‘better quality sound’ is one of the ‘differences’ that are very enjoyable. And, of course, a different pressing, a remastering, a different technology, these also provide these wonderful experiences.

But there are also lots of differences that are just slight improvements and sometimes more just changes in ‘flavor’ – and these are also quite enjoyable and should not be ignored or disparaged. They are healthy and help us both understand music and our preferences as well as just plain fun. And many of them do not cost a lot of money. A change of cables or powercords. Using better isolation feet. Putting spikes under the speakers. Moving the speakers a little. Moving the rack from between the speakers. Cleaning the CDs or LPs better. Cleaning the ends of the cables. Etc.

And, of course,these changes in ‘flavor’ can cost some serious coin, like swapping one $11K powercord for another $11K powercord. Yikes. But, wow, whatever the price point, this can be soooo much fun. 😀

[And even downgrades can be enjoyable. For example listening to a lower-end system at a friends house, or changing out a speaker for a less-expensive but higher efficiency one, or less-expensive but higher resolution one, or whatever – these can be so much fun and invigorating.]

Some of these ideas are disparaged by some people as not being pure. “There is a right way something is supposed to sound”, and any variance from pursuing that precisely defined [in their minds] sound makes you a ‘lesser audiophile’ or something. Then again, just look at what system these people have and when we stop feeling sorry for them and the bad decisions they made we can go back to having fun. Yes, there is a Path, but as long as we stay near the Path, to the best of our pocketbooks capability and to some degree luck, then we are OK, in my opinion.

A long, long time ago, we talked about The Path. The path from whatever modest system we start with, near the bottom of the mountain, to the Ultimate System on top of whatever mountain peak we can afford which suits our basic preferences. The idea of that post was to talk about how some systems were close to the Path and others were not so much [that these others were sometimes found cul-de-sacs, which required backing out of quickly, or we risk getting disenchanted and leaving the hobby – or worse, pissing off our house partners :-)].

But once you reach your mountain peak, or even before then as we make our way up the Path, a fun way to pass the days, and years, is to try something different every so often and wake up our ears and our soul again – to shock it into listening deeply with the attentive mind and open heart again.



Stupid Audiophile Troll Tricks and Why am I posting these?

Stupid Audiophile Troll Tricks and Why am I posting these? (you might ask. Well, Neli did 🙂 ).

Neli doesn’t read comments when she is out-and-about on the Internet. But I do. Sometimes. And on YouTube, Stereophile, and many other places, sometimes over half of the comments have some very aggressive troll-like anti-audiophile sentiment.

The average person, a member of the general public, reading these, must think WTF? These angry nuts are so passionate with their attacks – can they be right?

Considering how often people believe ridiculous things these days just because the messenger is outrageously aggressive, this is a real worry if one has hopes, like we do, that more of the general public should join our hobby.

Some people [for example Michael Fremer and Myles Astor], counter this by publicly responding to the trolls – replying to their comments using either common sense or the troll’s own expletive-laden language.

Their responses help but the energy required to do this, by me anyway, would be difficult to sustain over time.

I am trying to weaken the trolls in a different way here by helping dispel any doubts about whether these trolls have a clue [they do not], and make sure that the readers of these Stupid Audiophile Troll Tricks posts know exactly why what the trolls are saying is ridiculous and nothing but trolling.

Another purpose here is that when an audiophile reads these, it is upsetting. Here we are just grooving to the beat with as much fidelity we can afford, checking in what our friends are doing, seeing what’s new out there, and these angry haters show up?

One way to deal with this upset is to have seen these troll’s attacks before – and seen it dealt with in a calm, reasonable, logical, factual manner. Then, when we see these trolls, we can think “oh yeah, THAT one. Not just jerks but unimaginative ones at that”.

I am hoping these posts here on the Blog help do just that, but examining each of these class of troll attacks in the light of day and putting them to rest.

Perhaps we should go one step beyond and list copy-and-paste audiophile-approved pre-written responses that, if enough of us automatically post these as comments to the troll’s attack comments, might actually tire them out and make them go away.

Who are they? I think half of the trolls are just envious[who isn’t? we all want all the goodies, right? :-)] and the other half are dysfunctional men (or boys) who see another group they can bully.

[Personally, I also consider extremely negative anti-cable, anti-tube, anti-solidstate, anti-analog, anti-digital etc. comments as evidence that there is a troll about. There is overwhelming evidence that each of these technologies have a great deal to offer, albeit each with their drawbacks, that a reasonable person with adequate funds might indeed be making the exact right decision purchasing them. enuf said].