cost of speakers in relation to the rest of the system

I don't intend this to be a "How much should I spend for speakers" question.  Seems a number of folks generally recommend a third to two-thirds.  My question is, generally for discussion, whether folks found happiness and "success" in spending significantly less than that.  Or--by price, are you happy with speakers that might be considered by some folks outclassed by your other equipment and don't think the speakers are the "weak link?"

As a "favorite" professor might have said too often, "Discuss."

I would think there would be a number of Maggie MMG/1.7 folks, Tekton DI folks, probably some Omega folks, some vintage speaker folks.... others?
Hi Stfoth,

My perception is that for a given overall level of sound quality, the factors that particularly drive the cost of a speaker in most cases are the maximum volume level that can be cleanly reproduced, the deep bass extension the speaker provides, and the quality and size of the cabinetry. There are always exceptions, of course, and judging by the experiences that have been posted here the Tekton DI apparently is a notable one in three of those four respects.

I listen mainly to classical music, including a lot of well engineered symphonic music that has been subjected to minimal or no dynamic compression, and I like to listen at a reasonable approximation of what I hear at live classical concerts.  Including those that are held in relatively small venues, where even chamber music can reach volume levels that are high enough to surprise a lot of people. And I prefer to not use a separate subwoofer. So for me a speaker must be able to cleanly reproduce peaks of 105 db+ at my 12 foot listening distance, and must provide bass extension to below 30 Hz. Also, since my living room is my listening room the cabinetry must be some approximation of furniture grade.

All of those things add up to the speaker representing a substantial fraction of total system cost. For others who don't have similar requirements, though, I would expect a much lower fraction of total system cost to be fine. So as usual in audio, it all depends.

Best regards,
-- Al
I'm using vintage speakers that cost me $264 used. My integrated amp and CD player/DAC cost 13X (used) the price of my speakers. I also just bought another pair of semi-vintage speakers for $150. They need a little work, and will probably end up costing me $500 when I'm done with them. However, the modern version of that speaker retails for $4975. Is the new version better? Almost certainly. Is it $4500 better? Not to me.....

Comparing MSRP on all of my gear, my speakers weigh in at 37% of the total system cost.  They are the single most expensive item though, by a large margin.  In my system, I have 11 significant components, counting all interconnects as one component, and all power cables as a component, and the speaker cables as a component.

Component List

Power Amp
Phono Preamp
Turntable + Arm
Power Conditioner
Power Cables
Interconnect Cables
Speaker Cables

In my system, I think I have struck a good balance.  In fact, I think my speakers would be happy to live with some upgraded electronics, which would effectively make them take up even less of the overall cost.  I believe my tone arm, line stage, and power amp will all see an upgrade in the coming years before the speakers.
My front speakers represent the most $$$ spent on a single component in my system. However, their price only represent 18% of the total system cost (including tweaks). 

personally I never held with the 30%+ of your system in speakers and use speakers that are <<10% of my system cost. Matching the speakers to the room and the system to the speakers will likely pay back much more assuming you have a decent set of speakers to begin with. My bias is always to spend more on sources being of the garbage in garbage out school
+1 Almarg

If you want realistic sound levels then the speakers should be easily more than 50 - 80% of your investment.

Speakers are one of the few items where diminishing returns does NOT come into play until you hit astronomical prices...this is because realistic dynamics with low distortion at high SPL (needed for a true "you are there" experience) requires very large heavy cabinets with large woofers and very high quality transducers...all this is extremely expensive and there is absolutely no way around this except maybe a pair of good headphones....

Diminishing returns for speakers probably starts around $50,000 whereas for other components it can be between $2000 to $5000

Of course if realistic SPL reproduction  (loud & true full range) is not required then YMMV as modest speakers with small 8 or 6 inch woofers can often do quite well at low SPL 

My amp, preamp, CD player, analog set up, all have a fairly close MSRP. Speakers msrp somewhat more than double of each. But for my Salk Songtowers in bedroom, other items list for quite more. Though Salk is sold direct. And like Al mentioned I do not need deep bass or loud volume in that system.
I'm a real value oriented kind of guy with my Focals and Pass amp. 
Focal 936's and Pass F5 clone, that is. 
I bought the speakers new and I love them. I built the amp. I built the speaker cables. And I restored the old Marantz feeding the Pass. It's an ongoing project. I don't have the money to blow on silliness just to see how it sounds. I have to evaluate what I've got, figure out what's going to improve it, and figure out how to make it or get it at a reasonable price. 
The amp cost just under $1000 to build and I built it like a beast. It's definitely worth of the speakers. The cables we're under $75. I need to figure out what to do with the Marantz now. Listening this well could cost a lot more money than I've spent. 
Maggies are known for their price/performance so that will affect the ratio...

I only paid $4,000 for my 3.7i's (retail is $6,400) and am pretty happy with them.   My ARC pre-amp was used, and so was my DAC.  CD Player was new; can't recall if the Sunfire amp was new or used...

but yes, it's like buying wine - part of the fun is in getting a great value
My system, w/prices as best I recall, is as follows:

 5,000  VTL ST-85 integrated amp
 7,500  Vandersteen Treo CT speakers
 3,100  Rogue Audio Ares phono preamp w/Magnum upgrade
 3,000  Rega RP-3 w/RP-1000 tonearm, other tweaks
 1,800  Rega Apheta 2 cart
 2,000  exaSound e12 DAC
 1,200  homebuilt PC renderer
23,600 total, which puts the speakers at 31% of the cost. If you omit the DAC and renderer, the total cost is 20,400, of which the speakers amount to 36% of the total. Of course there are lot interconnects, power cords, conditioners and linear power supplies omitted from this list.

I'm happy with the result. 
My experience is thus:

There is poor correlation between cost and performance. If you completely ignore the prices, you may find much less expensive speakers you like more.

The audiophile who develops his ears with no regards to price will be happier for far less than most others.


Interesting on the different takes. I guess I never went into it with a set proportion in mind, particularly with fiddling, upgrading, or trying better to match this or that or just liking a particular contraption or speaker.

More of a process...including "silliness just to see how [something] sounds," most recently SET/SEP, passive pre, r2r, and single driver.

In the primary, which doubles as a LR/DR, so a larger room with some of the requirements Almarg mentioned, although I don’t think I hit 105db very often, the speakers represent roughly 55% at MSRPs and the highest percentage in any room. Those are the most expensive pieces I’ve ever purchased, and they may always be....

But, in a small office with difficult bookshelf-type placement, near-field listening, and where I rarely listen very loudly, I think I’ve finally ended the search, and, with a sub and crossover, the speakers represent maybe about 15% of the MSRPs.

@randy---Oh, I love "discovering" a great value wine.  I found a few, but they didn't stay that way...prices recently skyrocketed.  A couple of damned WE and WS ratings, probably at least partially to blame.

In my case I  spent roughly 20% of the total
the New Martin Logan 11-A speakers are a exceptional value at $10k, the 13A if you have a big room.
they have  a 24 bit active crossover dual powered woofers per cabinet  and Bass  in room to 26 hz I my room. Seamless Bass ,  Room correction to remove Bass nulls that all rooms have . Adjustable mid,and low Bass ,and 91 db efficient .
these panels 1/3rd is curved giving a much  bigger sweet spot then in the past.
Spl levels up to 110 db if you have the power to drive them with control.
my budget was $16k for speakers and they speakers beat the majority of speakers in the $15k + area  in many department  . If you could afford 50%  of the system  in a speaker then go for it. The Speaker is the highest distortion piece of equipment without question 
therefore the highest quality you can afford will pay dividends  in musical accuracy and fidelity  This is why I personally like Electrostatic speakers ,they are the fastest transducers out there and  these new models sound very accurate .
My speakers represent less than 10% of the cost of my system based on MSRP.
As some have pointed out, you may need to spend $50K or more to buy speakers that play music accurately at realistic levels (>100 dB).

Fortunately, you can spend much less on speakers that play music very accurately at lower volume levels.
I normally listen around 70-85 dB, maybe occasionally going to 90 dB.
I also feel that my speakers are the best value item in my system.
I feel that I MAY be able to do better, but not for at least 2-3 times the price.
My speakers MSRP is/was $8800, and I think I would have to go well over $20K to beat them.

Now while I certainly could do that financially, seeing as my analog front end, digital front end, preamp, and amps each list for more than $8800, my room also has some space limitations. My current speakers are better than a former pair of $21K speakers.
Also, many $20K+ speakers are rather large, and would be too large for my room.
My room cannot handle (nor can I) 6 foot, 250 pound speakers.
A man's gotta know his limitations. ;^)

In the end, bargains can be found in almost any area of this hobby.
Some feel that their best bargain is their source, or amplifier.
I feel that the best bargain, dollar for dollar, in my system is my speakers.
I am currently running Reference 3A Grand Veenas, which I find much more musically satisfying than my previous Verity Audio Parsifal Ovations.
As always, YMMV.
I've had just about every budget speaker under the $500 threshold and no mater what the review or they all (to me anyway) were similar in one fashion or another. I always felt my speakers was the weakest link of my system and I did feel that my speakers were outclassed by my equipment all the time I don't have top-of-the-line equipment I bought it all used but I could definitely tell it was suffering from the speaker so if I had to do it all over again I would spend as much money as I could on the speakers. It wasn't until I got to the thousand dollar plus category that I felt my system was really good 
Preamp- Parasound P/LD 1100
Source- Nakamichi CD Player4
Amplifier- Parasound HCA 1500A
Speakers- (finally) Dynaudio DM 2/8
All Analysis Plus interconnects speaker wires and power cables because they're just awesome and they're make in the small town that I live in Flushing Michigan I've been in this hobby for as long as I can remember (thanks dad) but at just 32 it was tuff to get over that hump but yeah in my opinion $5,000 speakers are always going to sound better than $500 speakers even with my equipment I think the more you spend on speakers that happier you'll be no matter what just my opinion though 

I've never actually looked at what the ratio is but looking at what each major item cost they all are within a  $1000 or so of each other. so relatively equally spread across my system of a turntable ($7000), speakers ($8000) and integrated amp ($8000), the rest is of course less and I don't do digital at these levels yet but building slowly. these are new prices aprox. I got the amp and speakers used and built the table up from a Garrard 301 total cost just about $7k. so the main components are equal so lets say 25% for speakers and each other component and 25% for wires and other smaller cost items.

An interesting discussion, as I just was asked today about speakers by the neighbor in our commercial compound for a recommendation for a 5.1 system he wants to set up in his spouse's new studio.  Since I'm the 'local audio nut' that 'does that sort of thing' likely know the routine...

He doesn't have the interest or desire to drop major $ into it, but wants something that'll 'sound good'.  OK...another leap into the dark, but wanting to be helpful and not fry his budget.

Polk and Klipsch from PestPry are OK; not stellar, but decent MOR.  For relatively the same $, go listen to a set of ML Motion 4's at the nearest Magnolia (2 hrs. away, make a day of it and have lunch somewhere 'interesting' or have a picnic in a local park....they've got kids).

Why the ML's, and those?  A number of things...1, they run ribbon tweets, which IMHO are far and away the best thing going for clarity and response at the price level.  They also have a good SAF....women are more sensitive to high frequencies.  Some find domes 'shrieky' and generally irritating at high db's, whereas ribbons don't illicit that observation as a general rule.

2) The reviews of the previous buyers....No negative responses, high satisfaction levels, small footprint, attractive looking, everyone likes how they sound, esp. the high end.  And the price isn't stratospheric, he could use 4 front and rear and go for a 'balanced presentation' in a 20' sq. room.  A personal opinion, but he's heard my version and was impressed...

3) They're ML's.  A well-known and well respected company, even by the likes of us.  And they've got good customer service, important for the novice.  And the price for 4 ($700+tax) won't cook his budget, esp. since he's thinking sub and center as well.

4) Since he's thinking sub & center, pop for the ML's that match.  They'll be relatively designed to match the M4's response.  That'll push it just over a grand, but it ought to soar away from the Polk's or Klipsch's and make him and the spouse smile for a long time.

5) They're not power hungry....any decent 5.1 receiver will drive them out of the room if they want to be 'frisky' with volume levels. *G*

Obviously, I told him to take some of 'their music' with them for auditions.  And to keep in mind that they'll sound slightly different in their room than in the demo space.  Ask about the return policy, just in case.  Make the salesperson dial the bass and treble to '0', just because...

...and have fun.  It's supposed to be fun, at the end of the day.

And, at the end of all this, to respond to the OP's query....
Speakers are the reproducers of everything in front of them.  I happily spend more $ on them than anything else, since they recreate the sound we enjoy, subject to taste and expectations.  One can always improve the 'front end', but the improvements are fractional compared to the devices that 'make the noises'.  One can always add Eq to vary for room response, move the drivers about to 'fit the room', and fiddle with treatments to tailor 'room issues'...but that's a deep subject for a newbie. ;)

I've offered to help him set it up.  I want him to drop his drink and smile on 'first song'.  Then you know you've made someone's day. *S*

 I'll kick this soapbox into the corner now....
My price ratio is always going to be a little ridiculous because of my resource limitations and inexplicable urge to learn, build, test, and experiment. At some point I’m going to dig into cables and build better versions of my 11.5g 6 way round braid. I only built these to learn the difference a cable design can make. And a difference it certainly makes. One of the things that I kept reading that reaffirmed my purchase of the Focal 936 is that they have a tendency to exploit the best gear you put behind them. And exploiting a Pass F5 they certainly are! The thing with building stuff is I can build a stack of Pass designs, hunt down a good DAC, make some pretty nice cables, tweak every component to perfection, and still not spend what I did on those speakers. Speakers, if you ask me, are way too complicated for me to build. I have no tools to make and finish cabs. I have no supercomputers to model how they behave. I don't have the money to buy piles of caps, resistors, and inductors to voice the things with. I see a tremendous value in buying well designed speakers because, unlike an amp which if you just clone well upholds the design specs, it takes tremendous resources to design drivers, cabs, and crossovers to sound like anything good. $4000 buys you and obscene amount of quality and R&D in a speaker these days. Minor alterations to cloning a speaker design can destroy it's sound. 
kosst_amojan makes an excellent point: Designing and building good speakers is insanely difficult. In current dollars my guess is you'd need to spend $5,000 retail for something truly great, which would represent 50% of a decent system, however you can get thirty-year-old speakers that sound incredible for a fraction of that thanks to the fact that: There are minimal electronics inside speakers (so easily serviced/upgraded); speaker design/construction become mature technology by the eighties (thanks to a new design hegemony of aiming for a flat frequency response instead of trying to "voice" them, along with breakthroughs in driver construction); and, not least, audiophiles are collectively insane so the second-hand market is flooded. My point being: Buy a superb-sounding, twenty-year-old pair of Vandersteen 2Cs for $600 and all of a sudden the speaker to amp/source ratio goes crazy. There are no hard and fast rules to this.
These ratios are at best guidelines and will vary depending upon overall budget as well.  Ratios at $20-50k are generally going to be more speaker leaning in terms of total percentage than a $200k system.  There's also a general (incorrect) belief that good speakers can somehow fix shortcomings in front end and amp, which is in my experience far from the case.  Ultimately, unless the system builder is relatively new (and needs a helpful guide as a baseline) cost allocation is not a consideration that will be relevant; rather, it should be building the best system possible, and that is almost always a system where the relative performance of all components is similar since one cannot "fix" shortcomings in a poorer (relatively speaking) component and such component will then hamstring and limit the ultimate potential of the system.
@kosst "inexplicable urge to learn, build, test, and experiment."  +1.  I lack the confidence and skill to try to build anything electrical, even from a kit with clear instruction.  And I have a weird fear of electricity.  So, "mad respect," or whatever kids are saying on tv.

How often does, "I just like these speakers.  I know they aren't the best at X, but these make my ears happy" come into play?  I think some folks alluded to it.

I have an odd fascination with Infinity Primus 150s.  To me, they are one of the best bang for bucks I've run into.  I think they were about $100 a pair.  Bought four new pair years ago, maybe thought I'd use them in a 6.1 second multichannel (pretty sure at least one box has never even opened).  Still have them.  Still occasionally pull a pair out of the closet.  Still impressed.  Had a pair in a small system for several years and probably represented about 5-10% at the height of trickle-down equipment.  Just sounded more "right" to me than several others that cost several times more.
Let's not forget that many high end expensive speakers cost at least ten times what they cost to make. Ten times, think about it. I never heard this about electronics, this doesn't mean there aren't any. Those hypothetical $50k speakers are not that much high-fi as anyone would expect. No wonder that to get more or less realistic sound in a big room, especially with big orchestra playing, one has to go over $100k. For medium size rooms, as many said, forget about this level of realism, there is no need for $100k speakers. Yeah, $50k should be enough. I'd say, buying all new, that speakers' cost would be something like 30% - 35% in a $150k set-up.
There's the cost of making a thing, and then there's the R&D to develop the thing and bring it to market. Engineers don't work for free and the equipment they use isn't cheap. 
As for the electronics side of this hobby, having built a very decent amp, I can promise you that you're paying a crazy amount of money for the box they put the stuff inside of. If I bought the transistors in my F5 in bulk and matched them myself, they would have literally cost cents a piece. The caps in the power supply, the trim pots, and the non-inductive resistors in the feedback were about the only parts that cost more than $1. Buying in bulk the way a manufacturer does, they get much cheaper. 
Those crazy fancy cases that a lot of companies bolt the circuits into are at least half the cost of the product, probably much more than half in many cases. Do you think a Dan D'agastino amp chassis is cheap to make? It costs more than anything inside of it, I'm certain. Looks sell electronics even more than they do with speakers. At least a speaker might look weird for a functional reason. Electronics just look weird for the sake of looking weird so you'll pay more for it. Personally I'd like a stack of nondescript boxes that just do what they do very well and distract me as little as possible from listening. Spare me the glowing meters and flashing lights. If I want to know what my amp is doing, I'll bust out my thermometer and look. Yep... still hot as a toaster! Resume listening.... 
@Inna-" get more or less realistic sound in a big room, especially with big orchestra playing, one [HAS] to go over $100k." Damn. I may as well quit chasing an unrealizable dream.

@Kosst--Interesting take. Too funny about people paying more for stuff that looks "weird." Pretty sure a two of my friends bought Maggies and ML, more for the fact that, to most folks outside the hobby, they look weird. The facts that they both sounded great and that the weirdness was functional were probably somewhat distant seconds. I recommended the Maggie MMGs, and I’m certain the attraction was more that that much sound could come from a flat board than that they sounded ridiculously good, particularly at their price.
transducers have the toughest job put $$$$ there
some supposdly great speakers are 10% distortion
the cone flops around is non-pistonic and out of phase...
also i would not look at total system cost would prefer single source to ear cost
those of us with server, reel to reel and a table are allocating $ away from one true reference source.
someone mentioned this with not including render / dac

so i am right at 50% with my reference chain

"transducers have the toughest job -- put $$$$ there"

best advice I've seen here for a while

at the top of the food chain %’s don’t mean much. chasing ultimate sound breaks all the rules. i don’t hold my system up as any sort of example on what to do.

but if asked what’s a good approach starting out or at modest levels, i would say that (1) getting the right speakers for your room and (2) stretching on the budget for speakers likely will result in the best sound. whether that is 50%, 75% or 90% of the budget for ok.

these days perfectly competent amps and sources (even skip a preamp at the modest price points as they typically limit performance) can be found on the cheap. and entry level sources and amps with good speakers scaled to the room with bring the best bang for the buck.

the speaker<->room interface trumps all.

even more essential is having a sonic reference you are aiming for, otherwise it's a game of chance. if you don't have a good idea of the sound you want then find someone you trust and allow them to assist you. or don't buy until you hear something that satisfies.

I could easily argue for spending more money on speakers then you might spend on the rest of your system. Or I could easily argue with spend very little money on speakers saving that money for amps preamps dad's cables. You kind of need a plan. A decent single ended integrated with a moderately priced speaker and dac has the potential to make you deliriously happy. 

IMO, the problem with looking at the situation in terms of the cost of things is that there is no absolute correlation between price and sound quality, however one defines that. And then there is the fact that a group of similarly-priced loudspeakers will produce radically different sound. One or more of them may sound better than the others to any given listener, so there again price is not the determining factor in sound quality. That being the case, one must find a better way to determine system budgeting.

In the days when Linnies roamed the Earth, their philosophy was the further upstream the component, the more important it is. The reasoning was, once lost, information can not be recovered downstream. True, but that ignores the fact that loudspeakers, like phono cartridges, are transducers, and vary much more in their sonic characteristics than do electronics, and even mechanical turntables and tonearms. A loudspeaker has a far greater influence on what you hear from a system than does anything upstream. IMO, of course. And, as many have here said, the speaker and the room it is in are a system unto themselves, inseparable.

I had several formative experiences earlier in my audiophile career that enforced the importance of the speakers. Mostly this had to do with hearing great speakers with meagre electronics. The first experience with Quad ESL 63’s blew my mind, and they were hooked up to a tiny, cheap Dynaco ST-70, with cheap speaker cable/interconnects. I heard the Waveform Mach 17 speakers (at the time) blow away practically every audio system I’d ever heard (and I’d heard scary-priced systems by then, most of what was available), and those speakers were running on some cheap amps (Kenwood if I remember), and bought-from-home-depot level cabling (John Otvos demoed them, he did not buy into the idea of expensive cables/amps).

When I first got my Quad ESL 63s I had to use my girlfriend’s Harmon Kardon integrated amp and cheap CD player for quite a while and yet the sound was incredible. Yes I upgraded CD players, amps (to CJ tube gear) along the way, but those were incremental improvements relative to the huge difference made by the Quads over other modest speakers I’d heard and owned.

Over the years, especially when my high end audio fever was at it’s highest, I heard systems put together by audiophiles who ranged from "everything makes a difference" - huge expense for cabling, raising them off the floor, crazy amp prices, every component on isolation etc - to systems owned by more engineer-minded audiophiles who dismissed high end amps/cables/Dacs and concentrated on the speakers and acoustics. Both "sides" could produce incredible sound (though the more practical audiophile set ups costing much less, usually).

So for myself, I’m a speakers-first guy, amps second (I like tube amplification), everything else far below that (probably DAC next).
I’ll spend some good money on amps, like my CJ monoblocks, but with the recognition I’m chasing smaller sonic differences/improvements than I get with speakers.

I have various speakers, including Thiel 3.7s. I feel the Thiels are at a point where I start paying much more for incremental differences in speaker performance. They are powered by CJ premier 12 monoblock amps, music streamed to a benchmark DAC. Stock AC cables all around, 10-gauge Beldon speaker cable (large gauge due to 30 foot length from amp to speakers). Sounds incredible, and I think more impressive than many far more expensive systems I hear elsewhere (in fact I’ve been shopping to see if I can find a replacement for the big Thiels, and far more expensive systems I’ve auditioned have left me less impressed than my own set up. One friend is a high end audio reviewers and he has an unmentionable dollar amount worth of cables, usually high end amps, amazing sources, and superb monitors - but I think my system sounds significantly better.  Thiel 3.7s are far better speakers (and I have great room acoustics) and they make more of a difference even when used with much more modest gear leading to them.

That said, I have heard certain gear that seems to produce exceptional results when hooked up to many different speakers. My little classic Eico HF-81 has an absolutely magical tone and tends to make almost any speaker hooked up to it sound more ravishing. But it can go only so far in breaching the difference found between speakers.

It's difficult to put into words. I wasted many years and dollars on affordable speakers that did the highs and lows yet felt uncomfortable with the music.

Not knowing how or what to listen for it was suggested I listen to Avalon's in stores and at shows but could never justify their price. As frustration increased a subjectively affordable pair popped up. 

At home the improvement was stunning even with the lesser electronics I hadn't yet sold.

My suggestion is not about the brand or the cost rather ones experience in listening. On the other hand I'd say buy used but go big. 

"the speaker<->room interface trumps all."

110% agreed


Do you listen at loud rock levels? Thiels are amazing at moderate levels but they don't quite hang together when really pushed. Try ATC - it may float your boat if you are looking for Quad ESL low distortion mid range but still a speaker that can really rock.

No I don't listen at really loud levels, at least not when sitting on my listening sofa.  Though I have excellent hearing, I also have some tinnitus from playing in a loud band when I was young so I've learned to protect my hearing these days. 

I can listen to the Thiels louder than any other speaker I've owned - they are so smooth.  (I moved away from ESLs because though they are transparent, they don't have the body to the sound that I prefer).

I do crank the system loud when I'm listening from outside the room (my system is in our living room which is open to the hallway so I can crank it when I'm in another room.  The Thiels certainly seem to hold their composure very well - better than almost any other speaker I've had.  You must like music really loud! ;-)

"Thiels...don’t hang together when really pushed,"

More complete and utter nonsense/misinformation from The King.

prof, shadorne needs his music really loud because he can’t hear.


Some rare speakers have 6 drivers and some 114 components making up four crossovers - and all this driven by one amplifier on a single set of binding posts. If this worked so very well with no compromises with regard to energy or dynamics losses then we would definitely see a whole lot more of this type of heavily engineered speaker design - but there is a reason we don’t see a whole lot of designs like this and it ain’t because I am deaf.

Your posts at least imply you may have fallen prey to some dubious generalizations about speaker design.

If, for instance, you are implying that the Thiels have a complex driver/crossover system (they do) that would leave them sounding lacking in dynamics, you’d be wrong. The life-like dynamics of the Thiel 3.7 (and 2.7) speakers were regularly remarked upon by owners and reviewers, e.g.:

"The CS3.7 also has a sensational dynamic snap and life. While it’s great for music, this is as good a place as any to segue into home theater sound. The Thiels were every bit as extraordinary with movies. They played loud, and that’s a must for home theater playback no matter how sophisticated we are as listeners and humans. They also created tremendous contrast between the quietest and loudest sounds. Few speakers of any type are superior in this regard, and it’s crucial to movie playback. "


Because the 3.7s are a bit bigger visually than I wish for my room, I’ve been auditioning many speaker brands (including Audio Note, Focal, Joseph Audio, Kudos (minimalist crossover design), and many others.

None have impressed me more than the Thiels, including in dynamics. In fact the slightly smaller Thiel 2.7s I also have have the most life-like energy I can remember hearing in a least since the last horn speakers I heard. I just had them cranked very loud and listened close and from outside the room, playing jazz, latin and a bunch of electronic/funk music and they kicked butt, staying punchy and clean.

Get get the best sounding speakers that you can afford that best match your system sound signature. Stop worrying about price ratios. If it means that your speakers cost 500 or 50,000 it doesn't matter as long as they do best what you need them to and it is within your budget.. 
For those who love the low distortion, transparency, and natural timbre of Quads (and other good ESL's), but need more volume and/or bass, the Eminent Technology LFT-8b provides all that for $2499 retail. VPI owner/designer Harry Weisfeld endorsed!
The experience I've had, having owned many pairs of speakers (as I'm sure most here have), is that a well-engineered and great sounding loudspeaker can be obtained relatively affordably. Some examples are: Monitor Audio Silver, Wharfedale (certain models), Totem, B&W, Martin Logan (especially ESL), etc.

I've had my current speakers (Dynaudio Audience 82s) since 2004 and they've never disappointed me. At my system's best I had a Pass Labs X250.5 in front of my Dyn's, and I was stunned how well they played together.

That experience greatly impacted my perception of how much quality could be attained in speaker reproduction at $2500/pr, since the amp was 4x higher in cost than my speakers. Almost any audiophile I know would call that match-up a no-no; my experience, however, disagrees with the conventional wisdom. My Dyns truly got out of the way and let the openness, transparency, warmth, command, and finesse of the Pass amp come through effortlessly.

I guess my philosophy more than anything is system synergy, not price points, whether discussing speakers or anything else in the chain.

Current System:

Dynaudio Audience 82s
B&K Ref 50 and ST 125.2 amp
Cambridge Audio Dacmagic and Jolida FX Tube Dac
XBOX One for Blu-Ray
APC S10 

At $5500, my restored ESL’s are the least expensive component in my system, where the other end is the five times more expensive Kuzma Stabi M/4Point.
My current setup is 90% on speakers.

The setup in my new house with semi-dedicated room will be 90+% speakers/room treatments.

I think you and I are of the same school of thought. It may not be the norm to put obscenely capable amplification behind a pair of speakers, but it certainly pays dividends. I'm not soaked in cash, but I want the best I can possibly afford and the only way I was ever going to own 75 watts of Pass amp was to build the thing and I'm not at all sorry I did. Focal 936's are very decent speakers, but there's certainly much better. But who's putting an amp like this behind them and really exploiting what they can do to their fullest potential? 
It's a work in progress. I'm really happy with the results so far and I'm eager to see how much better I can make it. 
I've never subscribed to any sort of "ratio" when it comes to complementing my amp/preamp or integrated setup, but retrospect relates that I've spent far less on speakers than the aforementioned equipment. 

Then again, I've been fortunate enough to purchase various Thiel models used, a couple Von Schweikerts, and more than a few others which were obtained at fractions of their original selling prices. Which, if calculated at their original prices more or less has me on par with my amps, etc. 

I like Thiel first and foremost, followed by Magnepan, Usher, Von Schweikert, Totem, and Dynaudio. Some were expensive , some were not - my wheelhouse thus far has been around $4000 for new models, and I think once you hit this mark the rewards diminish precipitously. 
Does a $10,000 speaker best a $3000 speaker?  Maybe. Perhaps. But the performance increase - real or imagined - comes in much smaller increments as you move up the ladder. 

Given their relatively small footprint Totem speakers are pretty damn amazing. Same can be said for Maggies - albeit with a larger physical impression. For me, it's Legacy Thiel. 

Don't fall into a trap with a ratio. There are truly so many very good speakers to be had out there that price alone cannot introduce you to. 

I don't think we go into it with a set ratio. I think the OP was just asking what the ratio ended up being. And yes, I think it should be based on msrp all around, I also got a much better deal on my used speakers than electronics 
jl35--I thought it would be interesting where folks ended up and why, especially folks who had "success" or were happy with systems with less spent less on speakers than the 1/3 to 2/3 that seem to often be suggested in other threads.. There are a few "how much should I spend" questions in other threads, and, even here, a lot of recommendations to go very speaker-heavy on the budget.  To me, MSRP is as good of a guideline as any for things like this---certainly it throws everything off if someone got a great deal on a used set of super-awesome mega-buck speakers from a widow who actually did sell them for a fraction of what she had been told they cost (as the joke goes).  But, I guess MSRP might not work for some speakers that are on a perpetual Jos. A. Banks sale, either.

I tend to be amp-heavy on spend, except in the primary system.  Odd how it worked out.  Not by design, but just how things fall into place.  Might be different if the situation was--I have $X and one shot to build one rig all at once--rather than building things over time and swapping things in and out.

My spending double ( msrp) on speakers was due to a great deal. I actually spent close to the same for each component 

Since you are asking: "where folks ended up and why, especially folks who had "success" or were happy with systems with less spent less on speakers than the 1/3 to 2/3 that seem to often be suggested in other threads "..... 

For my current system, the speaker spend is 13% of the total system spend (and that's including everything including platforms, footers, power conditioning, rack etc. etc.)  It will end up being closer to 10% once I bring in a new front end and some front end related items. At that point my system will be complete.

And, YES, I'm extremely happy and satisfied with system performance at this point in time.
Without including wires (SCs, ICs, PCs), room treatments, tweaks, or upgraded tubes, my speakers were 42% of my main gear pieces (CD player, preamp, pair of monoblock amps, two subs) when considering full retail costs.
I never thought of my system this way so it's an interesting exercise. MSRP in brackets (where applicable):

tube monoblocks - $3,600 22%
SACD player - $1,000 ($8,000)  6%
analog rig - $3,700 ($7,500)  22%
digital file server  - $3,200 19%
speakers - $5,000 ($10,000)  30%

The above doesn't include wires, tubes, etc., etc.

I never set out to build my system with a particular % in mind, I just gradually upgraded, tweaked and DIY'd over the years.

MSRP calculating is utter nonsense when one calculates the "value" of one's system because in the real world the MSRP is nothing but a figment of the manufacturer's imagination, not to fail mentioning that it's also price - fixing - hello McIntosh?  Weber grills?  It's almost laughable when you "shop" their products - and folks wonder why bricks and mortar retailing is suffering?

There is nothing about paying a manufacturer's MSRP that has made me feel better about buying their wares - shopping for high end equipment needn't be an exercise in discovering  that manufacturers can and often do hold their retailers hostage if they don't abide by their ridiculous parameters, the first and foremost being that they don't sell for less than their imaginary worth. 

Anyway...on point. 

My speakers are Thiel 3.6's mated to a REL T7 sub. Cost ratio?  About 1/3 of my total, with the Simaudio being the biggest ticket item currently. 

It ain't the clubs, Laddie. It's what fits your budget and wows you.