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This seemingly harmless statement separates the boys from the men. But it's also how innocent enjoyment can devolve into obsessive never-happy fretting. Fundamentally our endeavor is no different from any other. Ask any French pastry chef. He'll say exactly the same. Everything matters. Change the grain size of the flour. The recipe will foul up. Change when exactly you add the salt. Things will go pear-shaped too. To him digital data bits are just bits. But flour definitely isn't flour. Our involvement with pastry likely limits itself to consumption. We just eat it. Such basic facts of the trade are nothing but momentary curiosities then. They quickly fade from consciousness as we take our next bite. And that's exactly how one should enjoy hifi too. Yum and all that.

Custom single-ended 50 mono amplifier from Trafomatic Audio. Because its VT-25 & 25A are microphonic, their sockets are spring suspended. To avoid bottoming out during valve swaps, strategic stops act as excursion limiters. To eliminate physical impact transferred by the hookup wiring, the four socket leads are fragile ribbon wiring. Everything matters...

The difference is, once we've identified our favorite local baker, we're set. He attends to all the endless details of his profession so we don't have to. A hifi involves more personal interaction not only during the process of putting it together. There's constant maintenance during use. And then our taste buds evolve. We grow more demanding. At that junction we might mail-order our favorite gateaux straight from Paris. If we still dealt with pastry. But the hifi cooking goes on within our own four walls. We're chef. And we don't have the Le Nôtre school on the Champs d'Elysées to help us with fool-proof recipes. Audiophiles are self-taught with all that implies. Fumbling in the dark as it were. Trial and error.

Many of the more fastidious everything matters are what I call 0.1%. On their own they might seem ridiculous. But 10 of 'em add up to 1%. That's audible. If any of them interact by multiplication, we eclipse 1% in a hurry. Those on the purely hedonistic side—the do-me crowd—roll their eyes at the 0.1 percenters. So foolhardy and unhinged they seem. The voodoo tweak is their badge of honor. Meanwhile those on the co-creative side take responsibility for their own experience. They regard the passive do-me folks as fools who expect their hifis to do it all. Automatically. Far too easily pleased they are.

But - is hard to please anything we should aspire to in a hobby intended for enjoyment rather than punishment? Is learning how to become more and more critical productive? On the most basic level, ignorance would seem to be bliss indeed. And it is true that in the pursuit of understanding, innocence and bliss are traded for uncertainty and dissatisfaction. That seems like a raw deal. Particularly so if this state of affairs isn't temporary but permanent. The trick to negotiating the conflicting demands of simple enjoyment and complex maximal optimization of the hifi would seem to lie in being able to unplug the inner critic at will. We mean to enjoy everything from haute cuisine to greasy burgers. Exactly how is the beginning of one very long discussion. Not today though.

In the everything matters game, only you can decide where to draw the line. Not everything ties to expense or tweakiness. Besides sorting out power delivery, resonance control and room acoustics to whatever extent is practical, there are other things you might consider.
Klutz Design Ballerina Sweetspot listening chair: the chair features various options to decouple it from the floor. Get spiked or roller-balled...

Anything that positively influences the listener's state of mind flows into the experience. Feng Shui or environmental energetics consider layout, colors, materials and plants in decorating a room. There's managing exposure to ultrasonic radiation. Devices like Schumann Resonance generators, tachyonically treated objects, acoustic resonators and Stein Music room treatments operate in unconventional ways but have distinctive effects you might enjoy. There are ion generators of the electric or natural water-fountain sort. A truly comfortable listening chair at just the right height is an obvious requirement. And so forth. It's fundamentally no different than aspiring to excellence in any profession. It's a constant learning curve. How to get better at one's job. Applying the same desire and resourceful to our hifi hobby means becoming ruthlessly self-reliant. We must trust our own playback experience. Intrinsically. Absolutely. We must become our very own experts. Only we know the depth or lack of feeling touched by the tunes. In this game of everything matters, that's the thing which matters most. It's about pleasing ourselves. It's not something anyone else could possibly have the answers to.

Hifi reviewers only appear to be the experts. And to be fair, they tend to have more varied exposure and thus experience with hardware. But unless you've listened with them, what do you know about the depth or lack of their emotional response? For all their many polished words, their takeaway might be a lot poorer than the one you're having already. Even if you could never describe yours as effectively. Or at all. But what does that matter? It's your room, your hifi, your ears, your music, your pleasure. Is anything else relevant? I think not. So while everything matters, in the end only this one thing does.