During one of my rare introspective moments I was wondering what drives me to upgrade my system. I mean it already plays music very well, upgrading is a pain and usually costs rather a lot of money.
On face value this is a question that is likely to have a statement of the bleeding obvious as an answer, but bear with me here. I’ll start my tail during a period of contentment with my system and the music is reproduces …
After spending enough money to buy a BMW, I now have a system that reproduces music rather well. So most of the time I get on with enjoying the music it brings into my life, and by-and-large I ignore the system that is reproducing it.
But I’ve been here before, happily listening to music and unconsciously ignoring the system that’s reproducing it. Once a period of contentment lasted uninterrupted for nearly four years! Then it happens, not very often but sometimes - a little niggle appears. Some aspect of the reproduction emerges, from where I don’t know, but it’s getting in the way of enjoying the music.
Usually the next day, to my relief, the little niggle fades away and I’m back to musical contentment. Maybe I was tired, maybe it was a bad mains day, maybe the beer was bad or maybe I just had too much beer, no matter the music is too involving. Boy I am lucky!
I did say “usually” and sometimes I’m not so lucky - the little niggle doesn’t go away and it develops into The Big Niggle and then it grips me, or I let it grip me, and it begins to get in the way more and more to the point where it’s distracting. Even though only a few months ago The Big Niggle was, to all intents and purposes absent. Why me? Why am I so unlucky?
Then my wife notices as I can get grouchy when the system “isn’t working” and she now instinctively knows the when I’m displaying symptoms of an oncoming Big Niggle. She tells me in a reassuring voice that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, that I’m mad and that the system sounds just fine (translation – oh no we’re about to haemorrhage some more money and I need to employ some damage limitation tactics).
But it’s too late. The Big Niggle needs to be dealt with. The upgrade bug has bitten. So I start thinking about what can be done to improve the systems’ ability to reproduce music and banish The Big Niggle forever. I start with a rational and logical approach and seek wisdom from the Great Sages to be found at the Naim forum and at my local purveyor of fine HiFi wares. I describe The Big Niggle and the disruption it’s causing and humbly ask for options to make it go away.
There’s lots of advice, most of it helpful. Some of the advice would require the type of finance that would send my wife into an apoplectic fit and/or send my bank manager into a bout of incredulous laughter. Some of the advice makes sense. Some of the advice doesn’t make sense. Such is life and even with the sage guidance duly received, I clearly need to go and listen and make up my own mind.
“At last you finally got to the write answer” you sigh. But the story doesn’t stop here because the solution to remove “The Big Niggle” is still miles away and there are so many blind alleys …
Over what seems like a short space of time, but in reality lasts for a few months, the task of removing The Niggle has transformed into a Great Quest and I’m now in a state of bewilderment. All the “fixes” will cost a four-figure sum or more (“try a 552 sir it’ll do the trick!”) to implement and I seem to have lost all powers of objectivity and what decision-making powers I may have possessed have also left me.
My head is in a spin and I suddenly realise that …
… I’ve been seduced! (or is that suckered?)
I have forgotten what started me on my journey and I’ve lost sight of my original Big Niggle. I have even been reading HiFi Magazines and sometimes believing the writings therein. Arrgghhh! Bugger! I’ve joined the band of other irrational seekers of The Ultimate Fidelity and I’m never going to enjoy recorded music again. I’m doomed …
Wait… Whoa …
That’s it! I remember now! It’s the music! It’s all about the music! Whew, that was a close shave and now salvation is near at hand. I look for the option that gets me back to the music without any niggles. It all seems so easy now and I can’t imagine what the problem was – really! I now know exactly what to do.
So where does that leave me? Well I’m back to listening to the music again, ignoring the system that is reproducing it. So the tail is nearly over – well at least for now.
“Aw come on what was The Big Niggle and what did you do to banish it?” I hear you ask; well at least those of you who I haven’t managed to send to sleep may be.
Well The Big Niggle was that I wasn’t enjoying listening to vinyl any more. My aging (1979) Rega Planer 3 and not quite so old Grado cartridge seemed to have lost the ability to do the music thing. My search to banish The Big Niggle ended in a new bearing for the Rega and replacing the original S shaped silver arm with a new RB250 equipped with a Rega Elys. This is like a new turntable, lots more music - astonishing.
But there’s more. While on the Great Quest, amongst a number of dead ends, I heard a demo of a second hand CDS2 at a Naim dealer. Well it trounced the CDX/XPS I had and I had to have it – so much more music. This meant a much-reduced solution to my original Big Niggle was needed and this eventually resulted in the old Rega being tarted up. Cest la vie.
“So what?” I here you say. Well does anyone find this strikes a chord? If so why not bear your soul here? What niggles have driven you into the madness that is upgrading and where did the upgrade journey take you?
I’m listening to vinyl as I write … the Rega is good, but if only it was a little better, I mean compared to the CDS2 … … Aaaarrgh not again!!