I have modified my views over the years and now think the speakers are the lowest priority.
Cheap but decent speakers can sound damn fine with great electronics.
That said, The preamp does seem to be your weak link.
(Unclear if your phono pre IS the Yamaha or some separate?)
I would try a separate Phono pre first.
Plenty of good ones under$500.
Or go for an upscale preamp with phono built in.
your present cart is way better than the Yamaha you are now using.
nothing really 'wrong' with a Yamaha receiver, but compared to say a Linn..... musically...
This is my two cents.
I would absolutely agree with Elizabeth - your Yamaha, while a competent piece - cannot hold a candle to seperates, especially a seperate dedicated phono preamp. And the preamp, as I have also found out, is indeed the cornerstone of the system. You've got an excellent table and cart for now, and Vandy's are flat out great speakers.
My suggestion? Start with a seperate phono pre, like a Channel Islands VPP-1, which I think is $300 new. It even has an upgrade path - you can get the upgraded power supply later for around 150 clams. This is a great piece, with excellent detail, soundstage and low noise. You can try it into your Yamaha for now, and see if you like the sound. (CI has a 30 day return policy too)
BUT - if you combine that phono pre with a good solid preamp and amp combo, or a good integrated amp, your results wil be startling. Don't know your upgrade budget, but on the low-cost end maybe something used like a Creek 4330R integrated amp, or models by Nad (C 352 is a nice piece), or Rotel, or my all time old favorite Acurus DIA-100 or 150, (sadly no longer made) or any of the nice Musical Fidelity or Arcam stuff, you'll see what your system can really sound like, and the leap in musicality and satisfaction will be HUGE.
Either way, good luck and great listening!
After 14 years of this hobby, I personally had the hardest time getting the pre amp right. And I owned some pretty highly regarded pre amps. All had a very different sound, each pre always caused larger changes than any component or speaker change that I made. So to me that tells me, it is the most critical part of the chain, or at least from a design perspective the most difficult to get right.
To the best of my knowledge, the "primacy" question was first launched in this country by Consumers Union, who opined back in the 1960s that the two transducers in a system (cartridge and speakers), being inherently most error-prone, made the biggest differences in the sound; therefore, the largest portion of your audio budget should be spent on them. (Of course, these are the same people who won't admit that either amplifiers or CD players sound different, so no wonder!) The approximate recommendations I remember were 50% on speakers, 20% on cartridge, and 30% on everything else.
Then along came Ivor Tiefenbrun in the mid-'70s to announce that the 'umble turntablehitherto almost completely overlooked as a candidate for primacyhad to be considered first. After all, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that anything lost at the very front end can never be retrieved by the loudspeakers, nor that distortions created by the phono front end will be only amplified faithfully thereafter
So says Larry Archibald in the 5/98 Stereophile
I can agree with elizabeth on the speakers not being the highest priority. I once heard a demo by a B&W rep where he hooked up a pair of 602's to the kind of high end gear you would associate with the Nautilus line. It sounded great.
I personally for a lone time kept using a $1500 pair of speakers. Every time I got better gear, the sound kept getting better, so I kept the speakers. I ended up with a pre/pro combination that lists for $7500 before I finally got new speakers. The old inexpensive speakers still sound great with that gear; the better speakers are just a little more refined.
I still have those old $1500 speakers in another system with a pre/pro combo that would list for $4500 new.
If you look under my review link, you'll see I am using a custom made Blue Circle preamp. Was the way to "get the preamp it right" for me anyway.
Dear Joe: Your question is a very controversial one: +++++ " How much of the front end depends on the preamp . " +++++
Analog front end?, I want to do easy: TT, cartridge/tonearm and phonolinepreamp. I know that we have to consider cables, platform, electric energy supply, etc, but like I say lets do easy.
All de links in this analog chain are really important and critical, how much important/critical they are: well, for this question we could have several/different opinions like the number of people that give an answer about. I think that there is no absolute answer only a relative one according our experiences and each one priorities.
In my case: 20% to TT, 35% to cartridge/tonearm and 45% to phonolinepreamp. I know that for other people the TT is more important that the cartidge/tonearm combo, here it is what I think about: the cartridge/tonearm combo is the analog audio link ( front end ) that has the task to track, " read " and translate properly the record information, all this task depend on the good match of the cartridge with the tonearm characteristic. I know that if we don't have a TT those cartidge/tonearm tasks can't do it, but the issue here is that the transducer is the cartidge it self: that's the high importance it has. I can give you an example: if you change your Rega TT for a better one maybe you could hear a little improvement in the quality sound reproduction but if you change your Rega cartridge for a better one you should hear a higher improvement on the quality sound reproduction, no doubt about.
Now, the phonolinepreamp has not only a very critical tasks but a very hard tasks.
The Phonolinepreamp has to amplify that very low level signal that comes from the cartridge&tonearm and has to amplify it with out noise&coloration&distortions in any way. Only for you can feel the weight of the phonolinepreamp work I give this example>
a moving coil cartridge that has a 0.2mv of output level needs that its low level signal be amplifyed 10,000 times , that is for 2 volts for an amplifier can runs the speakers. 10,000 times !!!!!!!!!!!!, just imagine.
This is the critical task for what we are talking about.
But it is not only this amplify task with out noise&colorations&distortions what the phonolinepreamp has on target there is, at least, another more critical issue> the inverse RIAA eq. curve and its accuracy. Almost all the LPs were cutting according the RIAA eq. standard curve where, in an easy explanation, the bass frequency were down in volume around 20db below the original and the high frequencies were over around 20db higher than the original. This up and down changes conform the RIAA eq. curve that afect the whole frequency range. This RIAA eq. curve is extremely accurate and the phonolinepreamp has to mimic this RIAA eq. at inverse, that-s means that the inverse RIAA eq. in a phonolinepreamp has to return the bass&high frequencies at its original level, meaning that after the inverse RIAA eq. the signal should be flat with out any deviation. This phonolinepreamp work is a task that only a few phonolinepreamps can do it with low deviation from the RIAA standard>. This deviation should be no more than 0.05db from 20Hz to 20kHz. Which of the phonolinepreamps that everybody use meets these critical and audible spec. Think about.
Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Joe: You could be done changing your Yamaha.
Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Elizabeth: You posted: +++++ " I have modified my views over the years and now think the speakers are the lowest priority. " +++++
I respect your opinion but I can't agree with you, let me to explain my point of view about:
the speakers are and functioning like " translators ", the better the translator the better the sound reproduction. Now, we have to take out the great importance of the room contribution to the quality sound and the amplifier match with the electrical speaker impedance.
A better amplifier can't make " great " a mediocre speaker: when we have great electronics with mediocre speakers, this low quality speakers tell you, through it sound, that are really mediocre and your electronics can't shine and can't do nothing about but telling you that you have mediocre speakers. In the same way, take the same electronics through a good/great speaker: you will be in audio heaven, the sound from those speakers will tell you how good are your electronics ( remember that the speaker is a translator ). As a speaker grow-up on its quality desing/build the quality sound reproduction and resolution of the system grow-up, never at the inverse.
The importance of the speakers is crucial for the perceived sound. I think that David Wilson ( from Wilson speakers ) in the Las Vegas 2005 CES makes a " funny " demostration with his speakers to prove the central importance of the speakers: he connect two different audio system to the same Wilson speakers, one of that audio system was hidden behind the curtains and the other system was in front and view of the attendant to this demo, this audio system was composed of high end names audio devices. He was switching between both system and at the end the people vote for the hidden system: and gues what?, this system was composed of a 1K stuff, including Ipod!!!!!
Now, the speaker industry quality design/build were growing-up very fast in the last 10 years. Today, I can say that every speaker regarding of price or high end name sounds good. Today we have a lot of options about and we can't almost go wrong does not matters our speaker choice: but this fact can't tell me that the crucial place that always had the speakers are lower today, that fact tell me that the industry are growing-up in quality ( good for us ).
I know that your opinion and mine about is totally a subjective one but this kind of dialogue between us help to understand a little better our audio/music love, in any direction.
Regards and enjoy the music.
cube SE from a fellow A'goner......now I'm waiting (impatiently, of course) for its arrival to see what a differance it makes.
It "may" be a bit of overkill for my system, but I'm much, much more into listening to the music than tweaking my toys......again, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.