Ever been happy going backwards? With lesser stuff?

My journey pursuing more musical enjoyment has forever been onward and upward… 45 years and counting… and more expensive. Starting out as a teenager cobbling together junk… then moving up. More expensive and more high-end equipment.

Have you ever gone backwards? Lesser equipment? Why? Did it work out for you?

For me, yes… I moved to a new home and for many reasons, I “moved” into my office a smaller room. I almost never played my big rig … Magnepan 20 and VTL Deluxe 300 mono-block amps. Moved to Focal Electra 1028 Be speakers and PrimaLuna Dialog Premium HP integrated installed into my office… both a step “down”.

What I lost: imaging… won’t work in my office setup… clarity… the PrimaLuna is a bit more veiled than the VTLs.

What I gained: I listen more hours… way more… dynamics the Focals are more dynamic and just rock better… and beauty… the PrimaLuna is a beautiful sounding tube system.

Overall, I miss my big rig… but I listen and love music more than ever with this lesser system.

Bruce in Philly


You my friend have gone from Audiophile to Music Lover! If you “listen and love music more than ever”, that is awesome.

Quick story. Years ago I went down the path of buying an Audiophile system. One that was getting rave reviews, etc. Yes the system sounded awesome on music that was recorded extremely well. I found myself listening to maybe 10% of my music collection. Probably closer to 5%. After about a year of this I sold the complete setup and went with a “low cost” very simply system. Did it sound better than the Audiophile rig, nope but I enjoyed it more than ever and I started back listening to my entire music collection. I have never looked back.


What a refreshing topic Bruce! A nice change from squeezing the last drop of SQ utilizing the latest tweak or cable.

This year I set up a second system in the family room. A modest kit consisting of Strata with Vienna Acoustics monitors powered by a P3. Upstairs in the dedicated listening room I have the full BHK stack with Spendors and RELs. But sometimes it is so relaxing to sit downstairs and just enjoy the music. The Mrs. and I will go back and forth selecting cuts, seated comfortably using our iPhones to cue up our next track. Not the same SQ as upstairs by any stretch, but every bit as enjoyable. I have never considered myself and audiophile, but am a life long music lover and listener. It is very rewarding to have such and amazing sounding second system that we can effortlessly enjoy together.


Interesting question, but my answer veers off from your point.
I do like to occasionally go backwards to prove to myself if the last upgrade is truly better and not just different.
And I love the sq of my system, but that never gets in the way of enjoying the music.

Yes, a few years ago I went from a system based on separates with, for example, the preamp having two external power supplies to a simple integrated with internal DAC. I just was not enjoying the music from the bigger system and it was a refreshing change to simplify everything. Now, I am back to separates, but it has been a very gradual evolution that started first with replacing the speakers to be ones better suited to my listening room, followed by improving my vinyl rig - the integrated was the last thing to go.

Nope. I’ve always loved music.


I listen to music on anything and always derive great enjoyment from doing so. The equipment is just a means, with expensive kit merely a toy.


Yes I did Bruce, and I was happy . . . . . But then I reverted back . . . . . I replaced an aging ARC-based system: ARC - D300 amp, LS2 Pre, DAC2; EAD-T700 transport; and Martin Logan Sequel-3 spkrs; with a PS Audio GCC-250 integrated amp, Rotel CD player and B&W 804 spkrs. That change lasted a couple of years and then PS Audio started producing such tantalizing new products that I caved! Actually, it was hearing some TAD speakers that started me down the road again . . . . . but PS Audio certainly was an instigator!

Endless pursuit of resolution and greater accuracy in rendering what is buried in recordings is a double edged sword. One of my audio systems costs seven or eight times what the other does and sounds phenomenal with great recordings. However, it’s so revealing of every nuance that you are aware of every thing the recording engineer did less than perfectly. The other tube based system with KEF R500 speakers and a JL Audio F112 sub is more forgiving of average recordings and gives much long term listening pleasure as well. I will listen for days to the smaller system and not miss the more resolving one. I’m lucky to have the resources to have two excellent systems that give the best of both worlds.


I agree with @Elk. I generally do. The only thing I found intolerable were the speakers in a BenQ screen I purchased earlier this year. happy with a DAB radio, Devialet Reactor most of today.

some years ago I scaled down my system to about half the cost. For example, having considered upgrading my PSA Mk2 DAC that cost £2,500, I sold it for £1,300 and bought an Audiolab DSD DAC for £650 (discounted from £800 for box damage). Not long later. I went down from an expensive valve amp to Quad amps, which are brilliant and cheap, and have been for decades. Not long after that I sold pretty much all my electronics and bought an all-in-one. The switch was planned as being cash-neutral and it almost was, but I got a better system.

In 2015 I had PMC speakers that cost £4,900 and had gone up to £6,000 by then. I sold them and got Harbeth SHL5+ that cost £3,300, so almost half the cost and several times better.


Bruce, great question and topic! Of course the situation can be multifaceted as one may try to reduce size, complexity and cost of there system.

Had the same experiences as you with better which inevitably led to bigger and more expensive.

On the way up I discovered some great, aka musical, equipment from Arcam, Ayre, Creek, Denon, Epos, Harmon Kardon, Harbeth, Maranntz, Musical Fidelity, NAD, Naim, Paradigm, PMC, PS Audio, Regards, Spendor and TDL.

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I’ve been mulling this over and cannot think of a time where I moved to a lesser product and enjoyed it more, either in Audio or anything else with the possible exception of moving to a smaller home when our daughters left and it was just the wife and me. Of course we moved from a big house in the Philly burbs to a smaller house on the beach in Grand Cayman so there were benefits as well as just downsizing for sure

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Just to clarify… I downgraded my system primarily due to moving into a smaller room and Magnepans would not fit. However… I finally ditched the VTL 300 deluxes because I was tired of fixing them…and they ate tubes. When I decided to dump these super models, I did not go all out and buy super high-end monsters again, I “downgraded” to a PrimaLuna (a dealer outside of Philly had them to listen to). I heard a beautiful tube sound and purchased them… I believe they were a downgrade at least in what would be an equivalent to my VTLs.

BTW: I did NOT say I enjoyed the new system more… I actually miss the music that came from those Magnepans and VTLs. But the change in living situation allowed me to listen more as my desk and system are now all one. I dearly miss my Magepans… the big presentation and that like-OMG imaging… nothing like it. But other equipment can do other things better… my system is more tubey and although more veiled, is fantastic… and unlike the Magnepans, my Focals can rock!

My lesson learned: Maximizing your musical experience is a set of trade offs… living situation is one of them… realities of your room… selecting great components is NOT a matter of purely spending more.

Bruce in Philly


Interesting way to start the thread. It isn’t ‘lesser’ if you enjoy it just as much or more. This question as you’ve put it interestingly falls in the trap of ‘if it costs more it must be better’ trap right up front with the thread title. Lesser stuff isn’t lesser because the price tag is smaller. I’ll listen to anything if it gives me pleasure. I’ve spent hours listening to streaming music with my ‘lesser’ Creative T20 desktop PC speakers and lesser really didn’t even come to mind. Is it a substitute for my big rig? Of course not but when I’m fooling around at home listening to WFMTs stream with my laptop I don’t even think about it.

For most of my musical life, I was a music lover who had a little better than average system. In those days, it was all about the music. I honestly didn’t know about, or conceive things like “soundstage”, or “instrument separation”, or “grip”, etc. I simply played music on my tubed CD player (Ah! Tjeob CD 4000) and eventually an iMac connected directly to my integrated amp and the only analysis was about whether or not I liked the music playing. I barely gave a thought to audiophile concerns.

Then one day, about 5 years ago, I became curious about what a DAC was an if it would help eliminate the soft buzzing that came from having the iMac connected directly to the amp. A google search led me to the den of inequity :joy: that is Computer Audiophile. Next thing I knew, iTunes was no longer sufficient. That led down a rabbit hole of different software music players. For years I was perfectly content with 192 kbs rips of CD’s, and suddenly that was no longer enough. I ripped all my CD’s to full redbook file sizes. But then that wasn’t enough, I need the hi-res versions from HDTracks. And then PCM was no longer enough, I needed the DSD versions. And then my cables weren’t good enough, and then I bought one DAC, and that was no longer good enough so I needed a better one. And my speakers of 20 years suddenly were awful and I needed new Sonus Faber speakers. And then the already better cables were deemed too lowly, so I bought $700 interconnects. And on and on.

Then I found myself listening to a relatively small pool of only super high quality recordings. If I ventured away from that oasis, I found the sound often untenable.

A few months ago I started to realize that my rather expensive journey into the land of being an audiophile had somehow suppressed the music lover in me. I became less a music lover, and more of an equipment lover. And had never enjoyed music less.

It’s been like living The Hotel California! Can check out any time you like, but can never leave.

And now I find myself running for the door, I want to go back to the place I was before when it was about the music. I want out of this high resolution, ultra revealing house of mirrors. I’m hoping to take away a few of the gear related things I’ve learned on the audiophile trail of tears, but I’m headed steadfastly back to red book simplicity. The NOS Border Patrol SE-i Dac arrives on Monday for a head to head with the DirectStream Junior. I’ve sold off my separates in favor of an entry level Hegel integrated (H90) bought at 33% off. I’m selling off my fancy interconnects in favor of inexpensive old school Duelund. And by God, I bought a Schiit Loki for freakin’ tone control!

No doubt, this audiophile hobby, and frankly, these types of forums, are like crack cocaine. There’s always something better to read about, something else to acquire to take me closer to some non-existent sonic perfection. Do I really need a $15,000 stereo??? Couldn’t I be happy with a far less expensive one and give the balance to charity? I watched a news report of how Covid is creating epic starvation of children in Africa. How can I enjoy my revealing soundstage knowing I could send the balance to feed a dying child??? Why is it that I love my family, yet cannot see those starving children just as much as my family???

It’s a crisis of not only audiophilia, but one of wealth. When my life is over, what’s going to matter more, the width and depth of my soundstage, or how much I helped starving kids?


Dude, crack a beer… relax.

Bruce in Philly


A number here have stated this. I cannot wrap my head around this conceptually. There are, of course, poor recordings. But if I like the music I listen anyway.

I do not watch movies. But do people refuse to watch standard definition black and white films because they are not gorgeous to look at?


Yes, that’s how nothing changes. Just escape into a stupor…

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I have a friend who is an audiophile and a videophile, and yes, he refuses to watch subpar videos. It all depends on one’s sensitivity to such things. These are all very subjective experiences. There is no universal truth to which we either meet, or not. Each mind is it’s own world.

'k; back in the mid-1980s I had financial issues and sold a boatload of high-end equipment. I bought a cheap Hitachi all-in-one (receiver, cassette recorder and 6-record changer). It came with speakers, too. Did I love it? Was I happy? No, but at the time, what the hell. I can’t guess how much damage it did to my vinyl each time a record dropped but it did what it was supposed to do.