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When is it time to stop the never ending quest for audiophile playback perfection?


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Yesterday, I listened to Dave Grusin’s “Sweetwater Nights” from his "Out of the Shadows" album for the first time in a long time.  I used this song back in the day to tweak the playback head's azimuth of my Sony Walkman cassette player into alignment with the record head on my Nakamichi Dragon tape deck by making sure the triangle sounded correct and the bell sound at the end of the track did not sound overly “leaden”.

 

Well I listened to that cut yesterday and I could barely hear the triangle at all!  I thought the sound system had developed a “glitch” but then realized that, to my horror, it was probably my ears that have gone off.  In order to make the tune sound acceptable, using JRiver MC's equalizer funtion I had to crank in about a +7db parametric filter at about 5.500 khz with a Q of about 1.5 to fix it.  The same thing held true on another system and even through headphones thereby confirming to me that my hearing has begun to crap out.  I suspect at some point I my schedule a visit to an audiologist to confirm these unscientific findings.

 

The point of all this is to say that I am asking myself that it may be time for me to stop investing lots of time and loads of money in search of audiophile nirvana if, after all is said and done, the sensors in my head have begun to fail.  I suspect the truth of the matter is that, until science and medicine can develop a high quality direct interface from my audio system's electronics directly into the part of the brain that allows me to hear bypassing the ear itself, the spending of any more money on the latest DAC, cable or speaker system will be in vain.

 

It sucks to get old!

 

Your thoughts?

Lumin X1 and Westminster Labs 0.6 meter umbilical (Sold:  She will be missed), iFi PRO iDSD, iFi PRO iCAN, Questyle Twelve (Master), Marantz AV8805, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, Ultimate Ears UE-18, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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I can't tell you how much money to spend on audio, but I can tell you not to give up. 

My high frequency hearing has declined (apparently not as much as yours), but a high quality pair of hearing aids has clearly helped. 

The better ones work well with music, and you should get a lot of your abilities back, as it were. Enough that I think you can feel you are getting your money's worth out of your system.

I do understand your question, though. You need to find out if your hearing continues to deteriorate or not or in the coming years. If not, then maybe it's still worth it to invest.

 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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That makes sense.  And, in reality, I was only referring to frequency response when there are so many other aspects of this hobby like soundstage and imaging, the attractiveness of multichannel sound, etc., that don't rely on frequency response per se.

 

Regarding hearing aids, does "high quality" necessarily translate into high cost as some of the brands are quite pricy?

Lumin X1 and Westminster Labs 0.6 meter umbilical (Sold:  She will be missed), iFi PRO iDSD, iFi PRO iCAN, Questyle Twelve (Master), Marantz AV8805, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, Ultimate Ears UE-18, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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14 minutes ago, BlueSkyy said:

That makes sense.  And, in reality, I was only referring to frequency response when there are so many other aspects of this hobby like soundstage and imaging, the attractiveness of multichannel sound, etc., that don't rely on frequency response per se.

 

Regarding hearing aids, does "high quality" necessarily translate into high cost as some of the brands are quite pricy?

Unfortunately, yes. The good ones are pricey.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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1 minute ago, firedog said:

Unfortunately, yes. The good ones are pricey.

Thanks for that and also for showing me my "pricey" spelling error.

Lumin X1 and Westminster Labs 0.6 meter umbilical (Sold:  She will be missed), iFi PRO iDSD, iFi PRO iCAN, Questyle Twelve (Master), Marantz AV8805, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, Ultimate Ears UE-18, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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Well, the first thing I would do is go to a music store, and have someone there play on a real triangle for a bit, and consider how it comes across, as I listen to it ... before doing anything about my hearing. Because that's how my ear/brain system, in its current 'condition', is performing - if the playback matches that subjective impression reasonably well, and I'm not happy with what I'm hearing, then indeed I might consider some type of hearing assistance ....

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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11 hours ago, fas42 said:

Well, the first thing I would do is go to a music store, and have someone there play on a real triangle for a bit, and consider how it comes across, as I listen to it ... before doing anything about my hearing. Because that's how my ear/brain system, in its current 'condition', is performing - if the playback matches that subjective impression reasonably well, and I'm not happy with what I'm hearing, then indeed I might consider some type of hearing assistance ....

That's a really good idea!  We have a music store in the local strip mall.

Lumin X1 and Westminster Labs 0.6 meter umbilical (Sold:  She will be missed), iFi PRO iDSD, iFi PRO iCAN, Questyle Twelve (Master), Marantz AV8805, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, Ultimate Ears UE-18, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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23 hours ago, BlueSkyy said:

[...]

 

It sucks to get old!

 

Your thoughts?

 

It seems to me that getting old is grace. If we know, of course, what grace is. The intellectual and emotional merry-go-round slows down, you can get off safely without fear of breaking your neck. There is nowhere to run and nothing to strive for. Everything happens as it is, no reason to fight and follow up with arguing within you head. And stopping the pursuit of endless "improvements" is only a natural consequence to this :-)

 

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Well said and points for all of us to ponder.

Lumin X1 and Westminster Labs 0.6 meter umbilical (Sold:  She will be missed), iFi PRO iDSD, iFi PRO iCAN, Questyle Twelve (Master), Marantz AV8805, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, Ultimate Ears UE-18, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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A few thoughts from someone with compromised ears but a great stereo:

 

No question that if your goal is perfection, you might as well stop now.  But maybe your goal could be to maximize beauty?  (Obviously, this is a personal choice.  While it happens to be my hifi goal,  I am not asserting it should be your goal)

 

I have lost some hearing on the high end, but my system, based entirely on my ears, brings big smiles to family and friends with excellent ears; and this includes a very demanding professional musician/producer.  So I do not think hearing loss has reduced my ability to enjoy my stereo, and I plan to continue improving my system.

 

I have very expensive hearing aides ($7500 Phonaks).  My hearing is good enough that they help only some of the time.  They suck for music--I take them out for even a casual listen.  The audiologist told me they'd be fine for music after I got used to them, and I was unquestioning until I got home and turned on some tunes.  But if you think about this for just a moment, it's obvious that no hearing aide is going to satisfy a person used to a high end system--you've dropped tens of thousands of dollars on amplification, and now you're going to insert ultra-miniature amps and speakers into the chain?  (you'd be better off with Apple earbuds, haha/sob)

 

Good luck!

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System beauty adds much to the listening experience.  I've even purchased some cabled for their looks and my confirmation bias also said that they sounded better too.

 

Also, as does in my case, a good 25 y.o. single malt Scotch used judiciously dramatically increases listening enjoyment.  I guess the ends sometimes do justify the means.

Lumin X1 and Westminster Labs 0.6 meter umbilical (Sold:  She will be missed), iFi PRO iDSD, iFi PRO iCAN, Questyle Twelve (Master), Marantz AV8805, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, Ultimate Ears UE-18, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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...that's a fine and notable point: they're hearing aids, but actually small amps and speakers. Maybe miniature upgraded power supplies would help.
 

So far, my hearing *seems* good enough to continue to enjoy and invest in the hobby...but...how *good* is my hearing? At 63, gaps seem to be primarily around the frequency of Sweetie's voice...or so I'm told. 
 

I have actually increased my equipment spends over the past few years, with the thought: better to enjoy it now, as it won't last forever. MSB Reference dac is at the dealer awaiting pick-up Saturday. I will not go down without a fight! 

I'm MarkusBarkus and I approve this post.10C78B47-4B41-4675-BB84-885019B72A8B.thumb.png.adc3586c8cc9851ecc7960401af05782.png

 

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6 hours ago, PeterG said:

it's obvious that no hearing aide is going to satisfy a person used to a high end system--you've dropped tens of thousands of dollars on amplification, and now you're going to insert ultra-miniature amps and speakers into the chain?  (you'd be better off with Apple earbuds, haha/sob)

It's not obvious at all. 

First, they aren't preventing you from using your ears, they are supplementing what you can still hear on your own.

Second, if they're properly setup, they are mostly amplifying the frequencies you don't hear well, and in the proper amounts for your hearing loss. (At least the frequencies under 8000hz or 10000hz, and most users probably don't have good hearing much above that). Most older people have reduced ability to hear certain frequencies - it means they hear them at reduced volume, not that they don't hear them at all. 

In my case, I can clearly hear mid-high frequencies better with the aids. As far as I can tell, they don't change the character of what I'm hearing, but they do improve my ability to hear what's being reproduced. In fact, I play music at lower volumes with them in, b/c they allow me to hear more of what's there without turning up the volume as a way of compensating for partial hearing loss. 

And most middle aged to older adults have some level of hearing loss. Pretty much none of them (rare exceptions) hear the really high frequencies at all, and lots have reduced abilities in the 8K-17K range. That doesn't mean everyone needs hearing aids, but lets not kid ourselves that we all have golden ears. 

 

And your comment about little amps and speakers also doesn't add up. If it did, all those expensive IEMs would also sound like crap. But even some that cost a small fraction of your hearing aids are regarded as having great hi-fi sound. 

Has it occurred to you that good aids cost so much because it is expensive to properly reproduce sound from such a small device (And be programmable, auto-adjusting, etc.)?

Aids aren't a replacement for a sound system. They aren't trying to reproduce the entire auditory spectrum, and not at volume. They are designed to do a good job with a limited middle part of the spectrum. 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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18 hours ago, firedog said:

It's not obvious at all. 

First, they aren't preventing you from using your ears, they are supplementing what you can still hear on your own.

Second, if they're properly setup, they are mostly amplifying the frequencies you don't hear well, and in the proper amounts for your hearing loss. (At least the frequencies under 8000hz or 10000hz, and most users probably don't have good hearing much above that). Most older people have reduced ability to hear certain frequencies - it means they hear them at reduced volume, not that they don't hear them at all. 

In my case, I can clearly hear mid-high frequencies better with the aids. As far as I can tell, they don't change the character of what I'm hearing, but they do improve my ability to hear what's being reproduced. In fact, I play music at lower volumes with them in, b/c they allow me to hear more of what's there without turning up the volume as a way of compensating for partial hearing loss. 

And most middle aged to older adults have some level of hearing loss. Pretty much none of them (rare exceptions) hear the really high frequencies at all, and lots have reduced abilities in the 8K-17K range. That doesn't mean everyone needs hearing aids, but lets not kid ourselves that we all have golden ears. 

 

And your comment about little amps and speakers also doesn't add up. If it did, all those expensive IEMs would also sound like crap. But even some that cost a small fraction of your hearing aids are regarded as having great hi-fi sound. 

Has it occurred to you that good aids cost so much because it is expensive to properly reproduce sound from such a small device (And be programmable, auto-adjusting, etc.)?

Aids aren't a replacement for a sound system. They aren't trying to reproduce the entire auditory spectrum, and not at volume. They are designed to do a good job with a limited middle part of the spectrum. 

 

I should not have used "obvious" in that way.  I apologize.  To your specific points, I'll just share my experience:

 

I find listening to music incredibly brittle through my very expensive hearing aides, whether in my car or at home.  I just do not enjoy it, I would rather listen to nothing.  Television and news radio are improved.  My hypothesis is that I am inserting amps and speakers not meant for hifi (as you point out) into my chain.  But as with all things hifi, I encourage others to listen to their own systems through their own ears, then decide.

 

I have excellent IEMs--Ultimate Ears 18 (purchased after Chris's rave about his IEMs--thanks!).  But these are even higher priced and much larger than my hearing aides, do not have internal amps, and are designed for hifi.  So I disagree that their success negates my hypothesis.  Though I prefer full headphones at home, I recommend premium IEMs highly for hifi for anyone with the cash.  (Just don't go for a walk with them, you will not hear a sound as the car hits you from behind)  

 

I'm really grateful to live in a world with great hifi and great hearing aides.  But in my experience and with my ears, these circles do not overlap

 

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37 minutes ago, PeterG said:

 

 

I have excellent IEMs--Ultimate Ears 18 (purchased after Chris's rave about his IEMs--thanks!).  Though I prefer full headphones at home, I recommend premium IEMs highly for hifi for anyone with the cash.  (Just don't go for a walk with them, you will not hear a sound as the car hits you from behind)

 

I have the UE 18s too and swear by them!  I like them equally well and for other reasons than I like my Audeze LCD-4 open backed and LCD-XC closed backs.

 

UE now has a new flagship model with, what is it, six or eight drivers per side?  A true marvel of miniturization!

Lumin X1 and Westminster Labs 0.6 meter umbilical (Sold:  She will be missed), iFi PRO iDSD, iFi PRO iCAN, Questyle Twelve (Master), Marantz AV8805, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, Ultimate Ears UE-18, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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37 minutes ago, PeterG said:

 

I should not have used "obvious" in that way.  I apologize.  To your specific points, I'll just share my experience:

 

I find listening to music incredibly brittle through my very expensive hearing aides, whether in my car or at home.  I just do not enjoy it, I would rather listen to nothing.  Television and news radio are improved.  My hypothesis is that I am inserting amps and speakers not meant for hifi (as you point out) into my chain.  But as with all things hifi, I encourage others to listen to their own systems through their own ears, then decide.

 

I have excellent IEMs--Ultimate Ears 18 (purchased after Chris's rave about his IEMs--thanks!).  But these are even higher priced and much larger than my hearing aides, do not have internal amps, and are designed for hifi.  So I disagree that their success negates my hypothesis.  Though I prefer full headphones at home, I recommend premium IEMs highly for hifi for anyone with the cash.  (Just don't go for a walk with them, you will not hear a sound as the car hits you from behind)  

 

I'm really grateful to live in a world with great hifi and great hearing aides.  But in my experience and with my ears, these circles do not overlap

 

I'm thinking that if your experience listening to music is that bad, there is something wrong. Have you talked to your audiologist about it? 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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3 hours ago, firedog said:

I'm thinking that if your experience listening to music is that bad, there is something wrong. Have you talked to your audiologist about it? 

Yes.  Prior to my getting the aides the MD said I'd get used to them.  After getting the aides, the audiologist was not surprised.  Go figure

 

I don't remember all the numbers, but from your post my sense was that your loss is worse than mine.  Maybe I would be more forgiving of the aides if I sensed I was missing more without them?

 

One thing that has crossed my mind is an old school equalizer (which I think still exist on at least one McIntosh amp), especially for headphones, where others' enjoyment of the music would not be impaired and the room would not be relevant.  If a person with hearing loss used the data from his hearing test to set adjustments on the equalizer, would his hearing of the music be "restored"?

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I use JRiver MC and the built in 20-band eq and parametric eq work wonders for my hearing dip at 6khz.

Lumin X1 and Westminster Labs 0.6 meter umbilical (Sold:  She will be missed), iFi PRO iDSD, iFi PRO iCAN, Questyle Twelve (Master), Marantz AV8805, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, Ultimate Ears UE-18, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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11 hours ago, PeterG said:

Yes.  Prior to my getting the aides the MD said I'd get used to them.  After getting the aides, the audiologist was not surprised.  Go figure

 

I don't remember all the numbers, but from your post my sense was that your loss is worse than mine.  Maybe I would be more forgiving of the aides if I sensed I was missing more without them?

 

One thing that has crossed my mind is an old school equalizer (which I think still exist on at least one McIntosh amp), especially for headphones, where others' enjoyment of the music would not be impaired and the room would not be relevant.  If a person with hearing loss used the data from his hearing test to set adjustments on the equalizer, would his hearing of the music be "restored"?

 

You can certainly try that. It will work if you design the filters correctly. It's much easier to do digitally, as there are programs (like the on in PEQ in Roon) that let you very precisely make multiple adjustments. Obviously nothing will totally compensate for having the hearing of a 20 year old, but you might like the results.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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