Some gals dig broad shoulders. Some guys are done in by long legs. These days accessories get me hot under the collar. Why is simple. Age and experience. Once we successfully match a system to a given room within our budget, we can't really improve the core hardware. We could certainly arrive at our ideal sound by other means again just for the sake of embarking on a new journey. We could easily pursue difference. But once the holy amp-speakers-room trinity is carefully curated, our ideal tonal and textural balance and desired resolution locked in, new core hardware goes sideways at best; or costs radically more to be irrelevant. With our ideal sound clearly and narrowly defined, interest in sideways vanishes. We've done all of it already during the lengthy bachelor period when we played the field of tubes and transistors, single-ended and push/pull, hybrids, horns, widebanders, omnis, dipoles, sat/sub systems – all the permutations that had us curious.

Should this be our status quo—a hifi that's stabilized, mature, satisfying—there's another field we may play. Cable lifts. Ground optimizers. Noise traps. Resonance control. These types of accessories often demand high system resolution before they matter enough. With high resolution in place, what under different circumstances could be negligible or zero suddenly pulls. All electrical, mechanical and acoustic noise is distortion. Diminishing noise in all of its forms strips away layers which aren't signal. Each time we do, there's more space for the signal to occupy. It's how we can improve the functioning of our core hardware without leaving the groove of our ideal sound. We just grind that groove deeper and more profound. Anything that moves our sound sideways gets rejected. By core hardware I mean gear we can't eliminate without killing the sound. By accessories I mean gear we can eliminate whilst the sound continues. At best we must rewire a broken link like reseating a USB cable in our DAC if we removed an interceding USB bridge; or plugging a power cord straight into the wall if we took out a conditioner.

Audio hobbyists can easily make the mistake of investing in accessories before their core hardware's interactions have been ideally groomed to play a given space. Too much speaker for the room should certainly get sorted before we fret over a XLR noise trap. Ditto a poor amp/speaker match before we investigate fibre optics. It's only when the far-from-obvious basics have been mastered that a lot of accessories can shed their voodoo status and show what they're really capable of. This obeys the proper sequence where big disturbances are handled before we fret about subtler stuff. Because some accessories are relatively cheap, they can trigger impulse purchases particularly if reviews promise amazing results. But if the reviewer already sorted all their big disturbances and we haven't yet, we may get no noteworthy results at all. Should we really worry about trimming hedges if our roof still leaks?