I see a lot of questions regarding best matches to components, particularly with amps and preamps. It got me thinking about the different ways to go about building a system. From an electronics perspective, do you feel that combining components from various manufacturers provides the best sound? Or do you think that matching components from the same manufacturer provides more synergies?
With preamps and power amps, keeping with the same creator/manufacturer is often very advantageous because they were designed to compliment one another. A few such pairings that show obvious benefits would be with Atma-Sphere or Lamm.
With the former, there are advantages that go beyond sonic matching and in this case, one can separate an Atma-Sphere preamp (and entire front end (source gear) from their power amplifiers by up to 50 feet with a common (cheap) Mogami XLR IC with absolutely no sonic detriment.
This is not to say that there are are not some very magical matches of different components.
It all depends! Some manufacturers make an outstanding preamp while another makes an outstanding amp. I have mixed different brands for years,especially when I needed a big solid state power amp and a tube preamp. Also there are some manufacturers that do not make both! Always try to get the best of both worlds!
My last preamp and amp combo were a McCormack RLD 1 and DNA 125 amp. The preamp was nice, but changing it out for a conrad - johnson Classic 2 SE was a huge improvement. The DNA 125 has since been replaced by a pair of Quicksilver Mid Mono amps and they sound great together.
There is no absolute answer. Some will favor the same manufacturer, while others will favor different manufacturers, and both sides are correct.
Recently I have swung over to the same manufacturer side of the fence, but even further, by using an integrated amplifier. There are so many very good integrated amps out there these days, from major players like Pass Labs, Solution, VAC, D'Agostino, Vitus, etc., that for some, separates can seem a thing of the past.
Many times simpler is better. Of course, as with anything else in this hobby, YMMV
There are so many variables to contend with when matching components from different makers .If product A boosts bass and product B also boosts bass then when you combine the two you have too much bass . Bass just used as an example . All frequencies are affected by the two components being joined . My success rate for matching different manufactures is at about 30% . Am i just unlucky or on a bad streak ?
Not sure what constitutes "best" sound, but I will say this - I'm very happy with my Ayre stack (AX-7e, CX-7e mp, P-5xe, L-5xe). But then again, I don't like being on the equipment merry-go-round. My recent purchase of my Vandersteen Quatro CTs is the first significant change to my system in 9-ish years.
Every resistor, every capacitor matters. Not to mention every single tube, transistor, op-amp, and transformer, as well as the topology. Just this month, I had to scramble because a simple resonance tweak changed the character of my analogue front end, from being clean and precise to being cleaner but unpleasantly shrill. I did not want to lose the new-found clarity, but had to soften the sound somehow, so I changed some teflon caps to styrene, decreased the impedance on my step-up transformer, and added capacitance to a cable.
The moral of the story is, go with what sounds good, BUT, component synergy may change with every tweak.
I would think that matching components by the same manufacturer would have an advantage if the technologies used are somewhat unique and quite similar in nature, or they were introduced in about the same time period. OTOH, there may be a particular preamp that you like due to its features or ease of use, whereas amps are more or less "black boxes" with an on/off button. Therefore, the amplifier IMO should best be matched with the speakers you like; the preamp choice may have certain features or complements your source components. Mixing tubes and solid state generally takes more research and more auditioning. P.S.- of course now you have combination preamp/dac/streamers/servers, and speakers with built-in amplification, so this makes things easier (?) / harder (?). So I tend to stay with the older 2-channel stereo configuration with which i am more familiar...
Incest is always better. Just kidding. I would match power amp and speakers first, and after that who knows? As others said, one should not generalise. It also depends on how much you are prepared to experiment and change components looking for the best sound. Integrated is another approach. I too would probably get VAC and wouldn't bother with separates under $10k used.
Interesting responses, thanks! I know that "best sound" is very subjective, but so is the selection of components.
I just went from an older best-of-breed system which was great, to a single vendor stack with an integrated and am very happy so far. The synergies were very evident from the start and have gotten better as I go through the break-in period. That's really what prompted the question.
That doesn't mean I'd never go back to the best-of-breed route in the future though.... :)
Have found great results in putting together vintage gear and some newer pieces from different manufacturers. Speaker Cable, interconnects and power cables are generally of same brand, but have been connected to different pieces. Moderately priced gear and brings out enjoyable music.
Amplifiers: Rotel RB 1572 Class D, 2013, 250 Watts RMS 8ohms, Acurus A 250 Class A/B 1995 250 Watts RMS 8ohms.
Preamplifier: Superphon CD Maxx, Dual Mono Volume, with Seperate Power Supply, 1988, Restored designed (Stan Warren of PS Audio).
CDP: Sim Audio Moon 260D 2012.
Tape Deck: TEAC A-400, 1975 Restored.
Turntable: Dual 1264, 1978 restored in solid black walnut case and Plinth, AT 95E cartridge.
Sorry it took so long to respond, busy, busy, busy.
I really like the sound of my system, don’t have the "hots" to make any more changes in the near future.
When I play stuff for most people they remark how "clear" it sounds. Having said that, I can listen for hours and don’t get fatigued. I was somewhat concerned about the tweeters in my Focal Sopra No2’s, but the McIntosh electronics are so smooth, no harshness to interrupt the music. One of my audio buddies characterized the sound as "tube like", which in his mind, was a complement.
Thanks for letting me know ejr1953. Your system sounds like you have it where you want, Enjoyable. I have just started to look at Tube Gear. Starting small only with output stages for the Turntable using a Pro-ject Tube Box DS and replacing the Rolls. I am hearing that it will take maybe 100 hours or so for a break in, but to enjoy.