After 38 years in audio, I’ve come to a few conclusions. They are of course, my opinions:
Pay attention to the people who love listening to music and therefore do reviews on gear that does it best, not the techies.
Pay particular attention to reviewers who like the same music and have similar taste as you (or better still, do lots of critical listening and form your own preferences)
Don’t forget to take your reviewer’s hat off once you are satisfied and enjoy the music again, it’s the reward! Over several years in the late 70s I ended up with the ultimate system (for me), then I fully relaxed and looked for new music to experience and enjoy. My reviewer’s hat was off for good at that point.
Upgrade only one component in the signal path at a time and listen to a lot of music with the upgrade before moving on. How else can you really appreciate the difference?
Collect music, not gear. I’ve seem countless rooms full of audio gear rather than music. I’ve even seen listeners fill their rooms with components. to the point where the room acoustics are compromised, and only have a dozen or so albums to play. The only reason to have a redundant component in your system is if you are auditioning that part of the signal path for a possible upgrade. Otherwise it’s money spent that is just collecting dust and could be spent on more music to enjoy.
Match your gear to your wishes. Do you sit down and listen to music or do you watch movies where the sound takes second stage? What kinds of music do you listen to? What kind of movies do you watch?
Match each component (including your room) in the signal path to each other. Your music can sound worse with a better quality reproduction system if the quality of the source is inferior, for example. Now one is just hearing more of the original deficiencies. Do comparison tests to find your weak spots.