You will find hat most audiophiles mix components to achieve a sound they most enjoy. I don't think there is really any advantage to using the same brand of components. It drastically limits the choices you have. Manufacturers of course push brand symetry because it sells more product for them
I suppose if you really like the sound from 1 brand, and you like the physical look no reason not to go with one brand. Generally, there is no sonic benefit.
In practice individual brands will do some things better than others. For example their amps might be good, but their CD players not so much. Most people like to mix and match to take advantage of individual brand strengths. Synergy becomes more of an issue with speaker/amp matching - particularly as it relates to amp power/quality and speaker impedance/efficiency.
In general, who cares... Yes and No.
In particular if you like the sound of a specific brand why not.
"In practice individual brands will do some things better than others. For example their amps might be good, but their CD players not so much."
That's what I've noticed too, particularly from many budget manufacturer's. It led me to wonder if the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. Thank you for your responses.
I've found when using one brand for amplification and source, many times the sum is greater than the parts. That being said, I've also come across a few brands that do one thing great (ie source), and another thing not so great.
Until their current line, I felt Rega did excellent CDPs and not so good integrated amps, relatively speaking. I owned and loved the Apollo, but the Mira 3 wasn't on its level to my ears. Many disagreed, and I'm ok with that. The new Brio R changed that though.
I own a Bryston B60 and would love a Bryston BDA-1. Unfortunately, I can't afford one. Luckily I could afford the Rega DAC, and I honestly don't think I'm giving up much. Different, but my wallet in no way justifies the extra $1200 for the BDA-1.
Their are some brands who lose some magic when you don't have their amplification and source together - Naim especially comes to mind here. I'm a big fan of the Nait 5i and XS, and the CD5i and XS. Wouldn't take one without the other though, as something just seems off when you mix in a different brand component. I'm not Naim purist though, as I'm not a fan of their speakers at all. Most times, Naim's speakers hold back their electronics.
At the end of the day, it depends on the gear. Some stuff sounds better when you keep it all in the family, some don't. And just because two components (and even speakers) sound great individually doesn't mean they'll sound great together. I guess that's a big part of what keeps our obsession going.
I think generally there is a ton of synergy from amps and preamps from the same brand. For sources, not so much. So I think you can have decent success from just doing the preamp/amp from the same brand but going elsewhere for the source.
I agree with Kclone, definite synergy in staying with the same brand for amp/preamp. One of the best systems I ever heard was Meridian cd/pre/amp with Sonus faber speakers. Find a brand you like and commit to it. Mix and match approach can work, but is a harder to realize maximum potential. Move up the same brand range when funds permit. Its far easier, synergistic approach.
I've had good experiences with matching the same brand amp/preamp. In one system I had with matching a McCormack TLC-1 Deluxe along with a McCormack DNA .5 Deluxe the music to me was heavenly. I also really enjoy the music with a Kavent S-33 preamp and P-3300 amp combo. To me I think the Kavent gear is supposed to work together hand in hand. I found the S-33 has a gain control. You can leave the gain as is or decrease it by 10db. From speaking to the dealers that sold Kavent they said the P-3300 has really high gain. I can't imagine the P-3300 without another preamp. I unfortunately didn't try it though. Sometimes it is the little things like that that make me think having the same preamp/amp combo is really supposed to be.
Totally agree that preamp/amp matching is the best approach. Have tried mixing sources with good results, but ended up matching the cdp as well, but only because it out performed my other.
I don't know about Naim, but usually good digital will work just fine with any brand decent electronics. As for preamp/amp, it is an interesting question which I believe cannot be answered in general terms, only on case by case basis. And also it might not be better or worse but just different. Within my price ranges I follow the path of integrated amps and don't bother about that.
Yeah, many mix brands to tailor the sound as precisely as they can to their taste. Given sufficient funds, time and patience, I would too.
Don't know too much about Naim, but is it possible to use Naim with non-Naim?
There is benefit in synergy.
Buying all within a brand does not necessarily guarantee synergy, so careful there. Some gear in some brand lines together might provide it, some not.
Don't forget also that whatever gear you buy has to synergize with the room and your listening position as well. That is equally important, perhaps even more so. You might also have to buy trusted consulting services to get that part right if not comfortable doing it yourself.
(1). Using the same brand can offer freedom from technical incompatibility, take full advantage of "brand features", and possibly eliminate a better performing specific component(s), double up on brand coloration's, and possibly provide symmetry in shape, size and appearance which may or may not help with placement, is a safer route for novices and potentially compromising for experienced users.
(2).Using different brands can increase the chances of technical incompatibility, reduce the advantages of "brand features", maximize the possibility of using better performing specific component(s), counter brand coloration's, possible asymmetry in shape, size and apperance which may or may not make for more challenging placement, may be a riskier route for novices and possibly offer ultimate performance for experienced users.
Many good answers above. On the basis of sound quality alone it depends on if you like the sound. Of all the one brand systems I have heard there were not many that were outstanding. It is very difficult for any one manufacturer to design one very good component let alone several. I prefer to mix and match. It is more difficult and time consuming but can yeild superior results. It can also be frustrating some times.
"Brand Synergy" = "House sound" and that hasn't worked for me. In general, I like ARC amps and CJ pre's, and now I own neither in my listening room; but in order to get the sound that I like, as opposed to what they think is best, separate brands is the way for me.
I bought two pairs of Pass Labs X-600 monoblocs and a Pass Labs X-02 preamp. The sound was very good. I inserted an Audio Research Ref2 MkII instead of the Pass preamp and got immediate improvement. I again inserted an Audio Research Reference 3 preamp into the system, it was head and shoulders above the Pass Labs preamp. Both preamps were $10k at the time and both were flagship preamps of their company at the time. For me, this blew a huge hole in the brand symmetry theory. Brand symmetry sounds like a good idea, but I still believe that you have to listen and audition multiple components to see what works for you.
Looks like responses are all over the place. No surprise here. It's an individual thing and no right or wrong answer. For me personally, amp & pre amp same brand. Rest doesn't matter.
I would match power amp, speaker cables and speakers first, and the rest "doesn't matter", in a manner of speaking. But if we are talking reference level components, let's say, Gryphon, Lamm, Rowland, I would certainly try all possible preamp/amp combinations and would likely like them all. But they would sound different, I might even prefer different combination for different music, like different cartridges you know.
Of the brands that I just mentioned my first instinctual move would be to try Gryphon preamp with Lamm power amp and Rowland preamp/amp combo. Don't ask me why, I don't know.
"Don't know too much about Naim, but is it possible to use Naim with non-Naim?"
Yes it is. It used to be and still can be a pain in the rear end. For the longest time, Naim only used DIN connections (except for turntable inputs). They now have DINs alongside RCAs. However, the DINs still sound better, going DIN to DIN from source to preamp, and pre to power. I'm not sure if their power amps have RCA inputs though.
Their preamps must be run by either a Naim power amp or Naim external power supply, as their preamps don't have an internal power supply.
Naim sounds best with Naim IMO, due to the DIN connections and star grounding (basically everything gets grounded through the source).
I've heard Naim amplification with non-Naim sources and vice versa, and it almost always sounded off for some reason. The sum is always greater than the parts to my ears. The only non-Naim digital sources I've consistantly heard sound great with Naim amplification is Rega. The Linn LP12 sounds right at home with Naim stuff too.
I've only heard 2 Naim speakers I'd ever own - the Ariva and the current Ovators. Wouldn't pair them with anything other than Naim though. I'm a big fan of Naim, but can't get passed their speakers. Too dry and wall of sound to my ears. I've wanted to like a few pairs, as they do a lot of things quite well, but I just can't listen to them for more than a half hour before I'm looking for something else.
I own a Bryston B60, as I think it does the PRaT stuff just as well, and adds body, detail, imaging and soundstaging. The best of all worlds IMO.
I try to stick with one brand whenever possible and even try to determine what speakers and cabling they recommend as well. I figure its best to ask the engineers after all. ;)