How to divide a budget between components


Hello All,

I recently read through an interesting thread on AG in the speaker section on the best way to allocate one's budget for a system (the consensus was to put about half towards the speakers and the remainder towards everything else).

So on that note, what is the best way to allocate one's non-speaker budget? There seems to be a growing number of improved components to buy that are supposed to make a big difference. Where would a person's money be best spent? Below are some items to possibly consider for a components budget. For this example, the components budget would be $10K (keeps the math easy) and the speakers would be worth around $15k. I know the allocation would vary on more factors (such as music preference, digital vs analogue focus, etc) but I'm wondering as a general overall rule what has worked best?

Amplifier
Pre-amp
Turn table
Turn table cartridge
CD player
DAC
Surge protection
Speaker cables
Power cables
Equipment racks/tables
Room treatments
(Are there any I missed?)
xerotrace
Hello All,

I recently read through an interesting thread on AG in the speaker section on the best way to allocate one's budget for a system (the consensus was to put about half towards the speakers and the remainder towards everything else).

So on that note, what is the best way to allocate one's non-speaker budget? There seems to be a growing number of improved components to buy that are supposed to make a big difference. Where would a person's money be best spent? Below are some items to possibly consider for a components budget. For this example, the components budget would be $10K (keeps the math easy) and the speakers would be worth around $15k. I know the allocation would vary on more factors (such as music preference, digital vs analogue focus, etc) but I'm wondering as a general overall rule what has worked best?

Amplifier
Pre-amp
Turn table
Turn table cartridge
CD player
DAC
Surge protection
Speaker cables
Power cables
Equipment racks/tables
Room treatments
(Are there any I missed?)
Xerotrace

03-29-15

Sorry, there is no secret formula. I am surprised to read that many are still using the system building model from the 1970/1980 era, the old "half your budget to the speakers" formula. I thought that left this hobby a loooong time ago.

Everyone is different, some folks even use 75% of their budget on cables nowadays. While I don't agree with that method, I don't tell other folks how to spend their money.
Some folks say that you should spend 50% or more on the source, that the source is the most important link. Some say amp, some say speakers, even others will say cables, room, etc.

My system breaks down like this:

Speakers - 15%
Amp - 16%
Digital - 12%
Analog - 12%
Conditoner/Cables/Cords/Tweaks - 45%

Now this works great for me. Will it work for others? Some yes, some no. I don't presume to tell anyone how to spend their money, and I don't care what others feel about how I spend my money.
Listen to as much stuff as you can, and buy what sounds good to you.
Balance rules- 1/3 sources, 1/3 amplification/control, 1/3 speakers= good sound
Great points!

Mlauner: when you say sources does that mean CD player and turntable? Would anything else be included in that (like a DAC)?
.
If twenty guys answer this question, you'll get twenty different answers.
.
If twenty guys answer this question, you'll get twenty different answers.
Mitch, with twenty guys, I'm guessing more than twenty different answers. Remember, these guys are audiophiles.
Good luck!!
I'd allocate the same amount for each component including IC & speaker wire (as a group).
X for amp
X for Preamp
X for source (digital)
X for source (analog)
X for all wire
X * 2 for speakers
Etc.
Actually, the old audiophile joke is:
If you ask 10 different audiophiles a question, you will get 11 different answers. ;^)
Also...save room for beer allowance...makes any system sound good
On a serious note...I'm a speakers first guy...then upgrade electronics at your leisure... Fwiw...my smallest expenditure is cables, accessories...just my .02
I agree that opinions on this will vary widely, but what the heck, I might as well offer another.

I believe it depends on budget. For example at budget under 10K I think a balanced approach of ~25% for speakers, amplification, single source, cables/tweeks makes sense. However, if one had 100K then one might consider a greater % toward the speakers. Must admit to having no experience at the latter budget catagory.
My two most expensive components were sources.
TT then CD player in that order.
In my opinion the best sounding systems are those where every component works well with all others and no real weak link can be identified. This is also known as synergy.

And its also been my experience that to assign percentages from a total budget on what each component should be allocated doesn't work to achieve this synergy. Match specs and performance - not dollars.

I drive a $2200 pair of speakers with a $2500 amp and couldn't be happier after trying many other combos using the so-called allocation recommendations.

Its all about how it sounds brother, not what it costs!
Are you planning to be buying new or used?
Most any allocation can be justified by the one making the expenditure.
I know that this is always a spirited discussion, but will weigh in nonetheless. I am certainly of the opinion that trasnducers make the biggest impact. So cartridge and speaker are going to make the biggest difference since they are responsible for the physical-to-electric back-and-forth. I'd say don't skimp on any component, but put the big bucks on your speaker in particular. In my experience 50%+ on speakers makes the most sense. And let's not forget the importance of the speaker-room interface. Which is why I spend big on my DEQX HDP-4. Oh, so good. If DSP isn't in your cards, at least budget for sufficient room treatment. Hugely important.
For $10k
Turntable 2000
Arm 10000
cartridge 1000
phono amp 2500
monoblocks 1500
speakers 1500
cables,stands, CD player etc. 500
typo arm 1000
For $10k
Turntable 2000
Arm 10000
cartridge 1000
phono amp 2500
monoblocks 1500
speakers 1500
cables,stands, CD player etc. 500

65% of budget dedicated to the vinyl source? That what I call Linn Philosophy at its best!
Not enough has been said about cables... which in my system represent about 50% of the cost. Last week I sent my speaker cables to Nordost to re-terminate and in the interim used wire that I had left over from connecting the rear channels in my surround sound system. I knew those cables weren't "good" but was surprised at just how bad my system sounded without a good pair of speaker cables.
59 3/4 on speakers then keep on trucking.
Not a good approach.
The cost needed will largely depend on room size, how loud you need to go, and whether full range or not. Full range will require a larger investment in larger rooms. Smaller rooms can be done for much less especially if good extension down to 40hz or above is sufficient, as it often is for most music.

Low end extension and higher volumes (that can damage your ears by the way) typically means more investment in both amp and speakers.

There are many reasonable price choices these days for high performing digital source devices and a preamp if you even need one. Add significant expense for phono as well if needed/desired.
My percentage costs have shifted throughout the 5 years in this hobby, but as it stands now, 1/3 in cables and room treatments, 1/3 in electronics and 1/3 in speakers.

I personally believe more $ should be spent on room treatments than most people, myself included, spend. Speaker placement, room selection within your home and room treatments play a big role.

I think a person can only obtain a mid-fi sound without room treatments or so so electronics driving very nice speakers. I have found that high quality electronics and some room treatments can make most speakers sound pretty good.

It's interesting to think that many listeners have only heard 50% of what their speakers are capable of and I believe this is part of the reason why some of us suffer from upgradiatis.
Paraneer, Linn philosophy or not, if you are going to use a vinyl source, it is wisest to spend as much retrieving as much information from the source as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of spending lots of money trying to tune the rig with silly priced cables.
Noromance, I can hear quite an audible difference with cables. I lose quite a bit of detail swapping between monster speaker cable and blue jeans rca's vs. my signal cable silver resolution speaker cables and rca's. Not sure if you consider them to be "silly priced cables" but they definitely make a difference.

I think its kind of silly to understand that the source is very important because you can't replace a signal down stream that was lost right of the gate on the source, but that you don't believe that the cables transferring the signal are of major importance... Preserve as much of the original recording by using a high quality source then throw it out the window because you have crappy interconnects?
Of course you can hear a difference. I use I use OCC copper cable... home made. cheap. Trust me, these wires with a goid source is better than an okay source with a expensive cables. Obviously... cost no object.. get both but all things bwing equal...
Paraneer, Linn philosophy or not, if you are going to use a vinyl source, it is wisest to spend as much retrieving as much information from the source as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of spending lots of money trying to tune the rig with silly priced cables.
Never said anything about silly priced cables. What always amused me about the Linn philosophy is to feed such a pristine signal from an overpriced analog front end only to have it degraded by going through subpar amps and speakers.

Again, its about proper balance to achieve system synergy. And to do this, one must identify the weak link. It would be pretty easy to identify the weak link in a system feeding a signal from a $6500 vinyl source into a pair of $1500 speakers. But were all entitled to our opinions and if this works for you, that's great! Enjoy the music brother!
I do not believe my $1500 Quad Electrostatics are a weak link with my $6500 analogue source. (I never said you said anything about silly cables.)
Is that all they cost? I thought they were a lot more. Oh well, if you want to dedicate 65% toward the source and only 15% for the speakers, that's your right man. I would just caution others on the same. Have a great day
Used. Paraneer. But... why settle for less by compromising by not being able to afford new kit?
I have had this argument before and I have been down these roads for 35 years. I like ultra detail...that is where the emotion and nuance of the music lies. Once the source fails to retrieve that information, no other component will bring it back.
Used. Paraneer. But... why settle for less by compromising by not being able to afford new kit?
Thanks Noromance. This is what I suspected; you bought used. It is also proves my point why assigning percentages to allocate funds per component doesn't work...
Are we talking New equipment vs. Old?
Are we talking MSRP of New vs. Closeout/Discount Price of the same New?
Are we talking about a mix of all the above?
In reality, I'll bet your analog front isn't really 65% of your total system cost if you were to compare apples to apples. Yet you recommended the same. Its simply what you paid.
I rest my case. Have a good one brother!
In researching the importance of the wire component I came across this article. It seems very scientific and objective but it goes agains what I have traditionally been told about how important the relay component of a system is. I am still learning but the author (former McIntosh engineer) makes a good case that when it comes to cabling the value has more to do with making sure the gauge is appropriate for the distance and everything else is hype or marketing to sell expensive cables. From everyone's experience is this correct? Here is the article:

http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm
Xerotrace, most here would disagree with Mr. Russell's assertion, including me (and I am an experienced analog and digital design engineer). However, contrary to what some seem to believe, that does not mean that "more expensive" = "better," especially when it comes to cables. You may find this thread to be of interest.

Regards,
-- Al
03-30-15: Jmcgrogan2
Sorry, there is no secret formula.

Some folks say that you should spend 50% or more on the source, that the source is the most important link. Some say amp, some say speakers, even others will say cables, room, etc.

It looks like the replies have followed my original concept: there is no one path to audio nirvana. Many folks choose many different ways to get to the same place.
You must choose your own path.

I also agree with Al, and disagree with Mr. Russell's theories.

Cheers,
John
Noromance, I see your point and it does make sense. I agree, I dont think people should buy $500 cables for $500 speakers. You'd probably be better off buying $950 speakers and $50 cables to start, then later on upgrade your cables.

By the way, great sound is what I'm after and thats not always related to cost. I wouldn't put $250 cables in my system if they didn't sound better than $50 cables. The cool thing about getting good cables is that you can hang onto them and they should make all of the speakers you cycle through on the upgrade path sound as good as possible.

I guess it comes down to spreading the $ money around somewhat evenly. Its not a great idea to have $3000 in your front end and $600 speakers, but then again I would rather have $3000 in front end and $1500 speakers than vice versa.

Maybe this thread and question should be paired with where diminshing returns come into play, or even better, at what price does gear actually start to take bigger steps forward in sound quality.
B_limo, I think the rules are more flexible with digital sources. I will never forget a demo of an Oxford Acoustics with an Air Tangent arm and Koetsu Red Signature with some unknown to me tube amps and a pair of £100 Wharfedale Diamond speakers. The source was probably £20,000 and it was a total revelation. The speed and attack and dynamics blew away a Krell CD, Krell amps and top of the range speakers.