I’ve been an audiophile for 55 years. In the old days you went to 2 or 3 stores (Not big box ones) and you had a handle on what was available and what components sounded like. 30 years ago you added Audio and other magazines and tried to find a place to audition what they reviewed.
Now we have hundreds of brands: big small expensive and even more expensive so all is wonderful in the purchasing world.
NO! I don’t know how many of you are in my boat but here is my take on today’s world at least in Colorado. Here are your choices.
High end audio stores, usually run by guys my age. They sell record playing equipment and are loving the new interest in records. Their stuff is usuall very expensive you know 5 figures for phono cartridges to speakers. I love these guys and their indirect lighting and warm cats that sit at your feet. THey hate digital, but sell a few Bryston pieces.
Other high end stores that are into streaming and computer audio. THey also have expensive amp, pres and speakers, but have a turntable just for show.
On- line stores that sell most of the brands Roon friends like. Brick and Morter stores don’t usually carry Sonore, iFi, Sotm sBooster Schiit or Mytek around here.
The stores probably can’t carry the lower margin stuff and I understand but I’ve also detected a strange process amoung the high end critics in Stereophile etc. They review the sms 200 Ultra Neo and the ultraRendu but when they review a DAC like the Mytek line or the Schiit Yggdrasil the associated equipment NEVER includes the Neo or the Rendus. All the reviews are USB from a laptop.
So you can’t audition a Brooklyn and you can’t even read about the experience with a Sonore front ending it. It it all buy and return churning? Some may love the adventure but I’m getting too old for the hunt.
Any suggestions for shopping?
Most stuff one buys online, whether directly from the manufacturer or from a web site like AudioAdvisor/MusicDIrect/Crutchfiled, etc., allow for a money back window. Some charge a restocking fee, some don’t.
For me, the problem comes with shopping for speakers, since the return postage is often prohibitive.
I think hidden in there you are asking where you can find the reviews for all this computer audio stuff? That’s all gone on-line as well. I don’t know if this is relevant but you mentioned Stereophile and not for example:
Of course, use the same caution you use with the magazines. Maybe it’s not as impartial as it should be but it’s a start. A lot of 1.6 reviews out there at the moment!
In the UK we have the concept of bake offs where you as host provide tea and cakes and people come round to listen to your system and perhaps bring a bit of their own kit for comparison.
If you live near a population centre you could ask has anyone any of the kit you are interested in and buy the cakes!
Hifi nuts love an appreciative audience.
I’m aware of all the on-line reviews. Again no listening with my ears. I love the English idea. Wonder if I can start a traveling listening show. We would probably argue over the music.
Listening with your ears is so past century! Nobody uses ears anymore. Why would you listen anything when everything is right here, in the Internets.
Why would you use ears, when you can read Archimago and Amir measurements online. For free. It’s right there, with all the graphs and specs. Ears lie to you. Microphones and graphs never lie. Science does not lie. All we need is some Good Samaritan like Archimago and Amir, to take measurements for us. And save our money.
Examples: A Topping D50 DAC from China costing $250, measures much better than a Linn Akyrate DAC at $10,500. Fact! F.A.X! Logically, it sounds much better, as it measures better. Save your money! That’s all you need to know.
Another example: Chromecast Audio. Measures just as good as dCS Bridge, if not better. Even if there is just a tiny bit jitter discovered by that measuring machine, it’s proven that it’s outside the audio spectrum. It’s just zeroes and ones. If it is not broken, meaning there is sound coming out of it, it is just as good as any streamer at any price point. It’s self corrects the packets. It’s digital.
Watch this. Only 11 minutes. It says it all:
I’m sure you feel better after having a bit of a rant but how does that help the OP?
I know… I know . Sorry I could not help it.
IMO, for stuff you cannot audition at the store, the only way to know is to buy them, even if it means used, and have them home. You can sell them back on Audiogon or USAM if not good for you. Then repeat. That’s what I do
I know they have the Rocky audio fest are there any other smaller local shows. Shows can be a pain but they can be good to find what you don’t like and to talk to manufacturers who often have a couple of demo units you can get on the rotation for.
I have been a Meridian user all my life now. I often bought pre owned as I couldn’t afford new. The quality was and is amazing and now I have settled on DSP SE speakers as my main system. Simple, beautiful, and no hassle… All this Hotroding and never being satisfied is not for me. You have to pick a time to stop chasing the dragon…
… and play some sweet MQA …