It doesn’t have to make sense
We love things to make sense and fit into neat little boxes so we can manage our view of the world. When they don’t we can take a number of different paths: ignore, anguish, change the story, disbelief, start researching.
We understand that at the heart of 2-channel high-end audio is the goal of doing no harm: the purer the signal, the better the sound. It’s why we make sure there’s perfect power, low distortion, unfettered transient response. We also understand that less is more—the fewer stages a signal has to pass through the better its chance of arriving unscathed.
Which is why it is so maddening that a good preamp placed between the DAC and amplifier sounds better than going direct.
When this statement of fact is presented to people you can almost always categorize their response: agreement from those that have a proper preamp, disbelief from those that don’t, or sometimes anguish and denial because it rubs against the grain of all they know.
The idea that audiophiles often make decisions based on what they hear as opposed to what they “know” is what drives the Objectivists bonkers.
It doesn’t have to make sense.
It just has to sound good.
There are some products in the McGowan household that have earned my loyalty. They can get cranky, sputter, even break, and I will tolerate, coddle, and repair them without flinching. Others are a hair’s breadth away from replacement or outright termination.
It might seem odd to think of inanimate objects in terms of emotional attachments but I don’t think any one of us are immune: A favorite spoon, shovel, shirt, audio cable, remote, or DAC seem reasonable.
Our loyal roots no doubt run deep. Most of us had a favorite toy or game when we were children.
When we were moving the IRS V speaker system across the street I had many trusted components I made sure were tagged and included to make sure as much as possible was the same in the new room. And trusted is simply another word for loyalty. I have no educated reason to stick with any particular piece of kit (ignoring break in) other than loyalty.
I might well have been better off starting with all new gear and retiring my trusty old friends. A clean start with a fresh palette. But, for me, there’s value in loyalty to products and people. I won’t trade a trusted piece of kit for a new one without good reason.
And even then, I make sure my loyal products get good homes. If they served me well I want to return the favor.