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post #1 of 103 Old 08-24-2014, 04:52 PM - Thread Starter
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The Goose-Bump Test



The pursuit of higher fidelity—be it video or audio—has its rewards. How do you know if your system delivers the goods?

AV enthusiasts tend to argue about all things audio and video using two approaches: subjectivism and objectivism. For example, when it comes to the science and art of sound reproduction, enthusiasts engage in endless arguments over what makes a difference in perceived quality. Specs can't tell you if a speaker is going to appeal to your individual taste, although they can point you in the right direction.

A lot of subjectivist writing waxes poetic about the virtues of various products using florid language—often crossing the line into purple prose. High-end audio rivals food and wine for the sheer volume of descriptive adjectives packed into a typical paragraph. The same is true for AV writing, especially when the topic turns to display devices. The current debate over flat versus curved screens is a great example of a feature that has recently received the subjectivist treatment—according to one manufacturer, curved-screen TVs are art.

Objectivist reviews focus more on measurements and less on subjective impressions. The best-known objectivist tool is the spec sheet, which provides a means to compare different pieces of gear based on performance measurements. Unfortunately, manufacturers' specs are frequently not as useful as they should be; often, there is no well-established standard for how to take those measurements.

What does this mean for someone shopping for AV gear? Typically, the search for the right device begins with reading reviews that provide a mix of both perspectives. These days, thanks to the Internet, reviews and photos might well be the only tools a buyer uses to decide on an AV-related product. Additionally, even when someone auditions gear in a showroom, there's no guarantee it'll perform the same way in the home. Then there's the matter of personal taste; no set of measurements can tell you if you are going to like how a piece of gear performs.

So, what's a good measure of quality for evaluating AV gear? The answer lies in recognizing the physiological signs of immersion and suspension of disbelief. Now, when I say immersion, I don't mean filling your field of view with an image or surrounding yourself with speakers. I mean falling into the movie, living it. I'm talking about an involuntary physiological reaction—goose bumps—that indicates your mind believes in the situation presented on screen. I'm also talking about getting lost in music, imagining you are at a concert, perhaps even achieving a meditative state. Ultimately, if an audio-only system or an AV rig gives you goose bumps, it's doing what it's supposed to do. In addition, goose bumps are different from other reactions such as laughter or tears—those reactions have more to do with the story than with the presentation.

Therefore, after you read reviews, audition gear, make your purchasing decision, and set up your new toys, remember to watch out for those goose bumps. If your new gear does not produce them on a regular basis, it might be wise to revisit the evaluation and purchase process again. After all, audio systems and TVs last a long time. It's worth putting the extra effort into acquiring gear that facilitates a bit of escapism. Ultimately, that means finding gear capable of causing goose bumps. Does your current system do it?

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post #2 of 103 Old 08-24-2014, 05:00 PM
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And put extra effort into making sure the room is acoustically treated to allow the gear to goose you.
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post #3 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 06:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
A lot of subjectivist writing waxes poetic about the virtues of various products using florid language—often crossing the line into purple prose. High-end audio rivals food and wine for the sheer volume of descriptive adjectives packed into a typical paragraph. The same is true for AV writing, especially when the topic turns to display devices.
Nice turn of phrase there, and so true. You should write for a living...oh.

Yes, my modest HT theater still gives me goose-bumps. It's why I went to the trouble.

That's another well-written, thoughtful piece. Thank you.
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post #4 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 06:37 AM
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post #5 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 06:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by popalock View Post
Sick pic Mark!
I knew someone would notice...

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post #6 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 07:00 AM
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Mark---
I don't disagree with your premise, but to me, I get goose bumps from certain passages and/or songs. Not from a particular system. For instance, I get goose bumps listening to certain songs on my '99 Honda with stock speakers. I can guarantee the "system" is not giving me goose bumps.


To be fair to your point though, I recently upgraded to some NHT speakers, and there is no denying it is easier to get lost in the music with these NHTs compared to my old JBLs.


Anyway, just wanted to point out that I think goose bumps come from the music... regardless of the system.


Nicely written post, though. Thanks.

I turn the sharpness on my TV all the way up, because that's how I like my picture... real sharp.
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post #7 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 07:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by popalock View Post
Sick pic Mark!
Hmm, that does look a little bit familiar?

Very cool article, Mark!
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post #8 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 07:06 AM
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In addition, here are my own thoughts on the subject:

When I evaluate gear, I rely quite a bit on emotion. Does my adrenaline start pumping during an intense action scene? Does watching a concert at realistic live levels start to make me sweat?
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post #9 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 07:12 AM
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Sweat and goosebumps! Nicely put folks.
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post #10 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 07:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post



A lot of subjectivist writing waxes poetic about the virtues of various products using florid language—often crossing the line into purple prose. High-end audio rivals food and wine for the sheer volume of descriptive adjectives packed into a typical paragraph. The same is true for AV writing, especially when the topic turns to display devices. The current debate over flat versus curved screens is a great example of a feature that has recently received the subjectivist treatment—according to one manufacturer, curved-screen TVs are art.

Therefore, after you read reviews, audition gear, make your purchasing decision, and set up your new toys, remember to watch out for those goose bumps. If your new gear does not produce them on a regular basis, it might be wise to revisit the evaluation and purchase process again. After all, audio systems and TVs last a long time. It's worth putting the extra effort into acquiring gear that facilitates a bit of escapism. Ultimately, that means finding gear capable of causing goose bumps. Does your current system do it?

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Talking about art, your post is pure art. Florid language and purple prose indeed. Ernest Hemingway, wherever you are, Imagic Mark
is posting (like that word choice?) a challenge.

According to one manufacturer, designing a curve into a panel is an art. Of course it isn't curved for scientific performance enhancing reasons. A curved panel degrades the performance of the panel over what it would be if it were flat. But even then science rears its ugly head with the curve design chosen to some extent based on how much geometrical distortion a specific curve introduces. Tough getting away from science completely.

Now you have the goose bump test. If your system doesn't give you goose bumps, chuck it? Are you serious? You would imply that a new system or say just a new major system component on a system that once produced goosebumps (but no longer does?) should produce these bumps rather continually over a significant period of ownership time.

For music, the test should be do you feel you are there. The HP test that the Absolute Sound no longer follows. Also a good test for video as well. When the group comes over to my HT to watch a game etc, the universal comment is its like looking through an open owner's box window. You are there except that you see things much closer than you would in real life. Function of the projector and the screen material. A lot to do with the screen material, Stewart Studeotec 100 also called Snomat.

If you want goose bumps, move to Colorado and listen after a performance enhancing smoke. Legal too. A new twist on the words performance enhancing before the word drugs. Some tell me it makes the source or performance better as well as the hearing resolution of the listener. What a system tweak. I wouldn't know myself.

For those like me who don't use such a substance, the goose bump solution is simple, Buy a goose or two and let them run around in you listening room or HT.ump Once you have established enough goose bumps, you can have the geese for dinner. No Craigs list or flea bay and you don'y have to buy anything new.

I have a great idea for a poll. How often do you listen to your audio system stoned? Never, Always, Occasionally. Such a poll could generate ad revenue too and give a little variety to the right side of our forum pages.

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post #11 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 08:09 AM
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If a speaker gives you 'pee stream finishing chills' -- that's when you know it's good!
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post #12 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 08:24 AM
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Greetings,

Thanks Mark. An enjoyable read indeed..!


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post #13 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 08:50 AM
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Well I don't know about those goosie's but I sure get a smile from ear to ear when I hear my system doing upsampled 88.2 or 96/24 audio! either in multi channel audio or just two channel. When there is total transparency and speakers totally disappear and the front channels turn into a huge sound stage extending beyond the left and right of the speakers that will definitely take you into total emersion and give you the wow factor of being transported to the performance. Or with a video display in HD that draws you into the presentation and have you flinch or jerk because of a sudden bit of action then you know that your system is giving you the satisfaction that you desire. I wish that for everyone that has taken up this hobby.

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post #14 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 09:37 AM
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Respectfully, I disagree.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post

So, what's a good measure of quality for evaluating AV gear?
Well, on the audio side, we have a whole plethora of measurements that are correlated to perceived good sound. These include flat axial response, smooth and even polar response, extended frequency response, low resonances, high dynamic range, etc. Unfortunately I'm not aware of any audio engineers who use goose bumps to tell them if what they're hearing is accurate.

Ya but the point is getting lost in the music right? Not accuracy? Right?... No! It is about accuracy because once you have accurate audio reproduction, then the "lost in the music" experience will happen, and goose bumps will happen provided the music provides that emotional response. As Steve Kuester pointed out, goose bumps aren't a direct results of incredible sound quality, they are the emotional response to the artist's work.

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The answer lies in recognizing the physiological signs of immersion and suspension of disbelief. Now, when I say immersion, I don't mean filling your field of view with an image or surrounding yourself with speakers. I mean falling into the movie, living it.
Do you have any research to back up this claim? That goose bumps are a physiological sign of immersion and suspension of disbelief.

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I'm talking about an involuntary physiological reaction—goose bumps—that indicates your mind believes in the situation presented on screen.
This is what I'm talking about. The mind believes in the content when it is accurate AND the artistic content is believable. For instance, a very accurate system wouldn't give you goose bumps while watching Sesame Street, but perhaps it would while watching Avatar. However, if the artistic content is impressive enough, we'll still experience the physiological reactions despite a low fidelity system. The higher fidelity just promotes the experience all the more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post

Ultimately, if an audio-only system or an AV rig gives you goose bumps, it's doing what it's supposed to do. In addition, goose bumps are different from other reactions such as laughter or tears—those reactions have more to do with the story than with the presentation.
No, it's not necessarily doing what it's supposed to do. The artist certainly is doing what they're supposed to do it would seem. Goose bumps can be had at the concert hall, as well as tears and laughter.


Your conclusion is just a subjective interpretation of your experiences that don't necessarily extend to the rest of us. Why am I making this statement so strongly? Because I don't want someone walks into an audio salon and have the salesman plays some very impressive music shows off some over priced inaccurate speakers and an AVSforum member buy that product because the music gave them goosebumps and Mark told them "that's the stuff you want" and they buy the system and get it home and find out their collection of music just isn't the same as the really great song they heard back at the hifi beautique. Yes, this happens, it's how they sell stuff.
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post #15 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 09:50 AM
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I completely disagree with this, I get goosebumps from specific songs/content, it has no relation to the audio quality.
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post #16 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 09:55 AM - Thread Starter
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I completely disagree with this, I get goosebumps from specific songs/content, it has no relation to the audio quality.
Are you sure? You have some nice gear, it gets no credit whatsoever?
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post #17 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 09:58 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tuxedocivic View Post
Respectfully, I disagree.



Well, on the audio side, we have a whole plethora of measurements that are correlated to perceived good sound. These include flat axial response, smooth and even polar response, extended frequency response, low resonances, high dynamic range, etc. Unfortunately I'm not aware of any audio engineers who use goose bumps to tell them if what they're hearing is accurate.

Ya but the point is getting lost in the music right? Not accuracy? Right?... No! It is about accuracy because once you have accurate audio reproduction, then the "lost in the music" experience will happen, and goose bumps will happen provided the music provides that emotional response. As Steve Kuester pointed out, goose bumps aren't a direct results of incredible sound quality, they are the emotional response to the artist's work.



Do you have any research to back up this claim? That goose bumps are a physiological sign of immersion and suspension of disbelief.



This is what I'm talking about. The mind believes in the content when it is accurate AND the artistic content is believable. For instance, a very accurate system wouldn't give you goose bumps while watching Sesame Street, but perhaps it would while watching Avatar. However, if the artistic content is impressive enough, we'll still experience the physiological reactions despite a low fidelity system. The higher fidelity just promotes the experience all the more.



No, it's not necessarily doing what it's supposed to do. The artist certainly is doing what they're supposed to do it would seem. Goose bumps can be had at the concert hall, as well as tears and laughter.


Your conclusion is just a subjective interpretation of your experiences that don't necessarily extend to the rest of us. Why am I making this statement so strongly? Because I don't want someone walks into an audio salon and have the salesman plays some very impressive music shows off some over priced inaccurate speakers and an AVSforum member buy that product because the music gave them goosebumps and Mark told them "that's the stuff you want" and they buy the system and get it home and find out their collection of music just isn't the same as the really great song they heard back at the hifi beautique. Yes, this happens, it's how they sell stuff.
A lot of what I wrote is inspired by conversations with I'be had with Keith Yates. Maybe that's just his sales pitch, but the guy knows his ****, if you'll pardon the expression.

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post #18 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 10:11 AM
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Guys. This is a fun thread. Not something that requires serious debate. Its like a person posting about a new purchase, a new projector for example, and concluding that its amazing.

Sure, an audio system or an AV system is a means of listening or listening and watching specific content. Its about your reaction to listening or listening and watching specific content. Certain content on certain systems will evoke something special, a wow to you response. Its like meeting the right mate for you. Its like falling in love. The specific description of the response doesn't really matter.

We have a hobby that can do that for you and that is something that makes it especially nice.
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post #19 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 10:19 AM
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I wonder if Keith Yates has any research to back up this claim then. Or if you've misinterpreted him.
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post #20 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 10:24 AM
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Nice post Mark and yes! my gear gives me goosebumps and can bring me to tears and when called upon in a meditative state transport me far away. I mean isn't this the majority of the point? I would go as far as to say not only the gear but the proper selection of room treatments, proper setup, proper cabling and even seating all can contribute to the experience! it all matters and I leave no stone unturned . The result ? nirvana.
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post #21 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
Are you sure? You have some nice gear, it gets no credit whatsoever?
All about the song for me, can get goosebumps on $50.00 headphones, car radio, off $200.00 polk's, and off $25,000 B&W 801's.

I'm sure having decent quality stuff helps, but as long as the audio isn't terrible quality I can enjoy it.
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post #23 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 10:40 AM
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Does the "S" in AVS stand for Science or Subjective?

I think the goose bump test can be a good affirmation of the HT systems approach for many of us:
-screen size for immersion
-audio planning, design, layout for immersion
-appropriate acoustic treatments to manage the speaker<>room interaction
-objective measurements for tweaking/tuning, confirmed by subjective listening and getting goose bumps

Now, having fun with this thread, yes my system does pass the goose bump test.
Heck, just last night while watching "Noah", while the movie was so-so there were some awesome LFE and other audio/visual treats that give me and my family "goose bumps".

So, as I typed the above if I'm getting "goose bumps" with my system, then why the heck am I already planning upgrades in 2016/17 ?

Is it because someone realizes that (of course marketing depts), and then decides to introduce gear/technology like Atomos, 4k PJ's, etc, to keep us on upgrade-itis treadmill?

When is good enough, well "enough", and time to just enjoy and stop the insanity of upgrades?

Only each one of us can answer that.
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post #24 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tuxedocivic View Post
I wonder if Keith Yates has any research to back up this claim then. Or if you've misinterpreted him.
In a nutshell, he says there is plenty of research and that's what he studied at Stanford... psychoacoustics. There's no way I misinterpreted what he said, I have discussed the topic with him on numerous occasions.

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post #25 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 11:00 AM
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The only time in recent memory that I got goosebumps from the quality of the audio was on my $15 earbuds... while checking out the DTS Headphone:X demo. I really don't understand why more people in the A/V community aren't frothing at the mouth to have that readily available for movie watching.
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post #26 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 11:01 AM
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I agree 100%, and it's so hard to explain to those who haven't experienced it. I know for me, treating my room is what brought the detail up to such a high level it gave me goosebumps, it was down right eerie and something I hadn't experienced before. And then with the later addition of the JBL 3677s it just got that much better and even a THX intro would just make me grin like an idiot every time.

So personally I think the room and speakers that can play effortlessly with effortless dynamics are the key to goosebumps.
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post #27 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 11:02 AM
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I remember my dad, so proud of his system (which I now have in my mancave) set me down and ask me if I could feel the music, as the hair on his arm stood up.



So all the objective test of the past are moot, because we have newer technologies and ole skool sales tactics telling us we need a Super-Kamiokande to really Know.

I'll be the fist to say I get goosebumps and cold sweats at Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and The Miracle Worker 1962
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post #28 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 11:25 AM
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Quote:
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In a nutshell, he says there is plenty of research and that's what he studied at Stanford... psychoacoustics. There's no way I misinterpreted what he said, I have discussed the topic with him on numerous occasions.
Fair enough. I disagree with him also. Psychoacoustics certainly are important, however I don't think one's goosebump reaction is a good indicator of system fidelity. Thanks for the dialog, perhaps you could convince Keith to join the conversation?

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Originally Posted by cdy2179 View Post
I agree 100%, and it's so hard to explain to those who haven't experienced it.
Are you suggesting I haven't experienced this kind of physiological reaction while listening to great music on my system? And to be clear, I haven't denied that a good and accurate system does not contribute to these sorts of reactions. They do. That's a big part of my original post. They just aren't a good judge of fidelity, especially when choosing a system.

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Originally Posted by Woobieizer View Post

So all the objective test of the past are moot,
I can't tell if you're serious, but if you are, you are seriously mistaken. Objective measurements are absolutely critical in speaker design and everyone on this forum who enjoys high fidelity audio reproduction in their home is partaking of the benefit of those measurements, as nearly 100% of all speaker manufacturers use them to make their speakers. They're a requirement.
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post #29 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tuxedocivic View Post
I can't tell if you're serious, but if you are, you are seriously mistaken. Objective measurements are absolutely critical in speaker design and everyone on this forum who enjoys high fidelity audio reproduction in their home is partaking of the benefit of those measurements, as nearly 100% of all speaker manufacturers use them to make their speakers. They're a requirement.
Objectively: Past/Present/Future
The scientific method will prompt escalating values of fidelity. If it were finite why bother?

Subjectively:
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Originally Posted by mtbdudex
When is good enough, well "enough", and time to just enjoy and stop the insanity of upgrades?
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post #30 of 103 Old 08-25-2014, 12:57 PM
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I see there are two camps here on what gives one goose bumps - audio content and those who are into hardware.

My less than "perfect" system works well enough for me. I am sure that in the future I will replace some parts of my system as technology changes in media and hardware playback.

The only time I really got goosebumps was years ago after building a pre-amp (Dynaco) and powering on and playing a Red Seal LP while listening directly through some borrowed headphones from a studio engineer. Today, I'm happy just to smile when I enjoy some good playback on my system of various music that agrees with my tastes in how the media was produced (studio production).
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