Do You Have a System Roadmap?


If you have a regional audio society in your area and have attended a couple of meetings you've probably met audiophiles who change their gear with regularity. Oftentimes audiophiles will get sonically myopic and focus on one particular component; trying a wide variety of DACs or Phono cartridges with dogged determination until they find "the one." At audio clubs these folks get reputations as "the amp guy" or the "turntable guy" because they have so much experience with one particular component type.  My question is simple, "Is this the best way to construct a music reproduction system?" 

Being something of a sonic contrarian I have to weigh in with a different methodology. I think that components should be replaced on a regular timetable, sort of like an errand board - at certain intervals particular pieces in the system are "due" for replacement. 

Obviously some gear, such as speakers, will have a much longer period of service than a DAC or phono cartridge. Preamps and power amplifiers can have as long a lifespan as speakers, but since power amplifiers and speakers are so functionally interrelated it often makes sense to change both at the same time. Fortunately for audiophile budgets, such a change doesn't have to happen every two or three, or even five years. A ten-year replacement plan would be more than often enough.

I know you've all seen the pie charts of how much should be spent on various parts of a sound system - I find this way of dividing up the stereo dollar archaic. I prefer to spend the most money on the components I plan to keep the longest. Again speakers come up on top, followed closely by power amps and pre amps. Front-end components such as streaming devices or cartridges don't get a bigger part of the budget because they have relatively short service lives. I'd rather own three DACS that cost under $2000 during a five-year period than one $6000 DAC for the whole time. 

Instead of fixating on one part of your system for constant churning, start thinking about it as a system. I know this may be too logical for some audiophiles, but it's far easier to save and budget for audio gear when you have a plan in place.

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