A few audio-related thoughts have been swimming around my head lately, and I thought why not put them down onto paper. If some fellow audio nuts find what I say interesting or resonating, all the better. I guess I'll start by saying that the overarching theme to my upgrades has been trying to achieve a system with minimal harshness in the upper registers - in other words, to achieve that smooth, warm eminently listenable quality that we all hear so much about. My current setup is a Sony STR6060FW with EPI Model 70 - a nice small bedroom system that requires minimal upkeep, doesn't act like a spaceheater like tubes, and is relatively portable. Perfect for my lifestyle. I'd say I'm about 70% of the way to my goal of smooth, fatigue free listening. While the Sony is by no means harsh, it is the most detailed, resolving amp I've owned, and has made me realize that perhaps even a relatively smooth, well implemented solid state amp can be too analytical - not because it is producing distortion, but because it is producing more accurate reproduction than my tastes prefer. I may be better served by a more "colored" component, even if it comes at the expense of accuracy. Now I'm open to having my mind changed on this - I know some are of the opinion that there are systems which are detailed and smooth. This would obviously be the ideal, and maybe it exists in the promised land of high end modern gear, but I've not experienced it. The other thing to recognize is that some instruments and music are just going to sound harsh - that's how they are SUPPOSED to sound. It's hard to make rock or modern electronic music not a little fatiguing because that's just how it is. Another thing is that I don't think sound quality is correlated with cost past a certain $ amount. In other words, severe diminishing returns. Contrast the quality/value relationship in audio with a similar relationship in the car world - horsepower/$. Horsepower is an objective, measurable quantity that for the most part requires more money for more horsepower. With stereo equipment, the quality/$ relationship holds up to a certain point - perhaps the point at which a system can reproduce exactly the source recording - after this point people can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a system that doesn't necessarily reproduce the source material more accurately, just differently. And I don't think there's any reason that a speaker or component with a particular coloration should cost any more than one that has a different coloration or is neutral. So my conclusion is that in this hobby, it's better to be frugal and spend judiciously for 90% of the quality for 20% of the money. Case in point: $20 Playstation 1 sounds like a $6000 audiophile CD player.