One need not even get into a seperate preamp and power amp to get "good music" out of their system. There are many "audiophiles" that are happy with using a receiver or integrated amp. Like any other hobby, you have people of various levels of interest and dedication i.e. "casuals" and "fanatics". Finding a system that makes you happy can become a lifelong venture or a trip down to the local audio shop. Either way, start off by trusting your ears and remember that whatever you buy, you have to live with long term. If you don't want to live with it long term, you better make sure that the store has some type of demonstration or return policy or you'll end up feeding us "sharks" out here in "audiogonland".. : ) Sean
You've certainly come to the right place with this question. And you deserve a honest answer. Like most people you probably want to make good decisions on how to allocate your money. There is plenty of disagreement on this subject, but roughly I'd prioritize it this way: speakers, amplifier, cables, cd player. Rather than spend the most on your cd player, I'd say spend the least... even heaven forbid choosing a Sony, Pioneer, or Maranz. My experience has been that a good speaker/amplifier combination can still produce good tunes from a merely adequate source component. Then as your funds permit, you can upgrade your source and still hear the improvements through your speakers. The reason you hear so much about cables and power conditioners is that the name of the game is "system matching". You'll understand when you make your first cable upgrade and notice what you'd been missing all along. Every component you purchase (including stands and cables) alter the sound in some meaningful way. They might push the sound in the direction of being sharp but quick or dark and full to apply a few helpful adjectives. Ultimately, what you want to accomplish is a good balance of these contrasting effects. The problem for most of us "audiophools" is that we don't spend enough time with our components to learn what they contribute to the sonic soup. In order to take the next step from one component to the next, you must know what your speakers need--and this means knowing what you want from your system. The answer, well, I just want to hear music would miss the point. We're all listening to and enjoying music, but what we're trying to achieve is a connection to the music that the right sound promotes. A last bit of concrete advise, perhaps. Since you may be starting from scratch, I'd suggest that you not choose a separate amp and preamp, but instead choose a higher quality integrated amp. This will serve to eliminate several variables right away: you won't have to match the sonics of two components, the interconnect between them, and the extra power cord. So, the short answer to your question is, "yes", everything makes a difference and the name of the game is system matching. Imagine the sound your system produces as a composite color--changing a component is like tinting the color. If that analogy makes sense to you, then you are probably already an audiophile though you may not recognize it. Hope this helps to start you on the right track.
Rggordon had some very good points. I have been into this hobby for 15 years myself. if you are needing some help choosing the right musical components for your taste you can email me at; email@example.com
Dave - Welcome to the quest for better music. Your question is very broad and can't really be answered as stated. You'll need to provide more information for the people here to consider and comment on. For instance, what is your total budget for audio gear? What kinds of music do you listen to? How big is the room where you will be listening? And what sound qualities will be the most important to you in the music you will be listening to (e.g., impact/slam, lots of detail, warmth, clarity, big soundstage, bright or polite, etc.)? Keep in mind you can't have it all -- there will generally be trade-offs. So I would suggest picking 3 of the qualities you most desire, and then seek some recommendations on which particular pieces of equipment provide these qualities for prices that are within your budget. Your local hi-fi dealers can also offer some guidance here. I suggest visiting as many different dealers, selling as many different brands of gear as possible, to ensure you get a good cross-section of views and listening experiences. This will let you start to hear some of the personalities and sound qualities of different kinds of gear, how $500 speakers compare to $5000 speaker, how tube amps sound compared to solid state amps, etc. In terms of sound advice, there is no better source than your own ears, and some things may sound great to you even though others think it's not so great, and visa versa -- ignore them, trust yourself. It will also be quite instructive to read some of the other threads on this site. There are past threads on things like budget systems, good bookshelf speakers, cheap CD players, reference CDs, etc. (just go to "more chat" and do a search). Some of the regular posters on this site live and breath audio; they have many years of experience in this adventure; they have owned and auditioned all kinds of gear; and they'll offer their advise for free (provided you remain respectful of others and ask meaningful questions). You may also want to pick up a book by Robert Harley called "The Complete Guide to High-End Audio" (2nd ed.). It can be ordered in paperback from your local bookstore. It's well written and has a lot of good information about what different components do, what kinds of sound qualities to look for or avoid in gear, what a DAC is, the difference between balanced/XLR and unbalanced/RCA cables, how to set up your listening room, and so on. For your starter system, a decent CD player, pre-amp, power amp, speakers and cables (interconnects and speaker cables) will be enough (assuming you don't listen to FM or records). Buying an integrated amp would eliminate the need for a separate pre-amp and amp, and would also reduce the need for one pair of interconnect cables (the ones that would run from the preamp to the amp). So this is an option you should consider if your budget is fairly small, though it will reduce the flexibility of your system somewhat. At the other extreme, I would advise staying away from 1-box-does-it-all systems (e.g., CD/tuner/tape deck/integrated amp/...) since these generally have poor performance. If your budget is limited, my belief is you should first find the best pair of small- to mid-sized speakers that satisfy your musical tastes. (A full-sized/floor standing speaker for the same price will generally have poorer performance since more of the manufacturing cost will have to go into a mediocre woofer and larger box -- which means the quality of mids and highs will be sacrificed.) If you want more bass, then get a separate subwoofer to fill in the bottom end with a pair of smaller speakers (the sub can then be used for home theater too). An important thing for you to know is that some speakers are very revealing while others are more forgiving. Revealing speakers are usually very detailed which can be highly rewarding, but the down side is they will also reveal the flaws in bad recordings and will sound poor if you don't have money to buy a very good CD player, preamp, and amp to feed them. So for a low-budget starter system, I would suggest getting a more forgiving speaker to begin with so your music will be enjoyable from the outset. Then, as you gradually get better gear upstream, the speakers will keep sounding better and better. You can also get a good sounding CD player for a few hundred dollars these days and an exceptional sounding deck for about a grand. Get one with a digital output in case you decide to get an external digital-to-analog converter at a later date (this is an easy way to significantly improve the performance of a CD player as digital technology improves). If you buy a pair of good, forgiving speakers along and a good quality CD player, you can probably get by with a modest (but not crappy) integrated amp or amp/preamp -- perhaps even a good receiver -- for a while until you get a better sense of where your musical tastes are pulling you. Shop for cables after these steps are done to fine tune your system. People who are spending a lot on power cords and the like have already made substantial investments in setting up complete high-end systems, and they are now in the process of trying to squeeze the very last drop of performance out of their gear. Not for you if you're just starting out -- focus on the nuts and bolts first, then shop for washers and lock-tight later. Finally, where to buy: You should support your local dealer(s) to the extent that you can and to the extent that they are actually being of assistance (some dealers pushy or prissy or arogant, some will treat you as an annoyance - if they don't remember that they are there for you, don't give them your business). At the same time, here at Audiogon there are some GREAT deals on gear selling at half (or less) of suggested retail cost. You can get a lot of bang for the buck this way. Before committing to buy a used piece, though, always be sure to ask the seller whether the gear they are selling is in perfect working order, has ever been damaged or defective (sold as B-stock, irregular, etc.), or has ever been repaired or serviced (e.g., resoldered or reterminated cables). Once in a while, a lemon will show up for sale (sometimes unbeknownst to the seller), and you don't want to get stuck with it. Some things like tube gear and turntables can also be a little tricky to buy used, and I would caution against running out and buying such gear used unless you get someone with more experienced to guide you while you're learning the ins and outs. Another audio-related website you may want to visit is Audioreview.com. It contains user-posted product reviews of many kinds of different gear. Some of the reviews are vindictive or are off-base, but most are honest and sometimes surprisingly accurate; be sure to pay attention to what kind of associated gear each reviewer was using and what similar products they've used before for comparison. Therefore, you should be able to get a fair sense of a particular product's characteristics, merits, and shortcomings by reading the reviews collectively and ignoring the odd-balls. In response to your question posted above, other people here on Audiogon may advise you differently than I have, and their points will also have some merit. Therefore, in the end you'll need to go to out and start listening for yourself and deciding which approach is best for you. The hunt is a big part of the fun in this hobby. Exceptional music and exotic gear make it truly wonderful. Hope this primer helps. Two last things you should always remember: (1) trust your own ears, and (2) this is about the music (if you can manage to keep the ego out of it, you'll enjoy the music a lot more). Happy shopping. Don
All of the above responses have merit and should be taken as good advice. I have been in this hobby, for more years than I care to remember now, and there are two pieces of advise that I will offer: 1) As stated above regardless of what total price you are going to spend, on your system, be completely content with your speaker selection and 2)accept advise but trust your own ears above all.
Regards and good luck
Welcome to the word of audio. I fully agree with Don. Establish a budget, then start looking and let your ears be the judge. If may help to take along some familiar music as you audition. In addition, if possible, have the store play it through the combination (amp/cd/speakers) they are suggesting. Take your time - some stores will even let you audition the combo at home. the "hunt for perfection" is a big and continuing part of this hobby. However, do not let specifications rule. Your ears are the most important evaluative tool. If it sounds better to you, then you should probably buy it. Welcome to the world of audio.
If you have yet to buy your first equipment, I'd second some of the recommendations above and urge you to spend time in the local dealers' listening rooms. You'll learn what sounds good to you, how to describe what you want to others, what brands are available and what they sound like.
I'd also suggest that you start off modestly. The internet has made the upgrade path easy with all the buyers and sellers that are able to find each other. It would be a shame if you were to spend a bunch right away on gear that doesn't meet your needs. You might be incluned to call the rest of us fools and leave the hobby. :-)
That is a tough question! While this forum is a great source, with very informed people, you may as well ask: What's the meaning of life? The best response I could give would be: determine your budget, find the speakers you want (I suggest you find speakers that have a high sensitivity, 90db, 8ohms, and then, and here is where the work begins, system matching. The problem I had when I first purchased, was that even though I bought good equiptment, at fair prices, they didn't work well with each other. If you are willing to buy new, and lucky enough to find a dealer who is both informed and honest, that would be the easiest way to go.(I tried this, didn't work). If you want to save a lot of money, or get more for the same amount, then you will have to do the work yourself. If this is the case, then be prepared for a lot of trial and error. I think the most difficult part is learning what it is you are looking for. A lot of equiptment sounds good on first listen, but after awhile starts to reveal itself. Also, and this is important to me, listen with the music you like, not the audiophile quality disks that sound great, unless you want to be stuck listening to recordings instead of music.
Dave, Welcome. It seems you've come to the right place and, after reading the responses you've gotten, I'm struck, yet again, by how many really thoughtful, intelligent and generous people are involved with this hobby. There's not much I can add to what has been said except to avoid jumping on the "Review" and "Name-brand" hi-fi train. When I started getting into hi-fi, I read every hi-fi mag and review looking to find the secrets of the ocean upon contemplation of a dew-drop. It doesn't work. Not trusting myself (and my limited knowledge), I'd read the reviews and seek out the "stellar" equipment in which so much reviewer praise had been lavished. I'd be lying if it didn't affect what I heard. I think it wise to consider reviews (and, in keeping with this, some of the larger names), but not to be ruled or dictated by them. As most of the other posters have said, tust yourself and your ears. There isn't a governing board that decides if your rig is righteous enough to be considered "hi-end hi-fi" (as, I think, I thought, almost expecting to be judged on the name-brands I had purchased - what a knuckle-head I was). There's a lot of great smaller companies out there that don't flash big ads (Meadowlark to name only one) but give great bang for the buck and provide exceptional sonics. It always comes down to the music and filling your home and family with all the wonders music can give. Thanks for putting the question out there (I wish I would have had the intelligence to do so when I started, it would have saved me a lot of frustration and dough) and good luck in your hi-fi adventure. Again, welcome.
Dave: Whether things like power cords make a difference is a subject of controversy, to say the least. The "everything-matters-just-trust-your-ears" school is well-represented here on Audiogon, and among the better-known audio mags. But there's another school, the "there's-no-effect-without-a-cause-and-where's-the-cause?" camp, which holds that one's ears are easily fooled into believing differences exist even among demonstrably identical sounds. You need to consider both sides of this argument, so I suggest that get yourself a few issues of The Audio Critic, just to round out your education. (I'll come back with details on a few worthwhile back issues in a day or two.)
Beyond that, here's my basic advice. The three most important factors in how well your system reproduces music are the recordings you listen to, your speakers, and your listening room. Sufficient amplifier power is also critical. Everything else is trivial by comparison, unless you intentionally seek out equipment with a particular "voice," which many people on Audiogon do (and which is a perfectly legitimate way to pursue this hobby, though it's not a fancy I share.) You have to decide what your priorities are, and listen and buy accordingly. Enjoy.
This is to follow-up on Rrgordon's advice. While most of what he has to say I agree with--particularly his recommendation that you look into good integrated amps--he has covertly taken a stand on one of the bigger dichotomies in the audiophile world. Namely, there are some out there who feel speakers are the most important component, and others who belong to the "source-rules" camp. Without arguing one way or the other, I would like to say that if you are looking at a modest system of around, say, less than $1200 for the whole thing, you should probably be spending close to equal amounts for each of the speakers/source/amp. Cabling, etc., is probably not the most cost-effective priority at this level. As your budget creeps higher, this balance will almost assuredly change, as you adopt your own theories. Check out www.goodsound.com for more advice on budget system building.
The SOURCE CD player or Turtable are your most important items.Dont let anyone tell you different.
Can a graet 50K speaker change the signal it recieves.can it make a bad signal sound good.No it cant.
GARBAGE IN = GARBAGE OUT.
ITS THAT SIMPLE.
A cheap source will keep you spending counless $ to get better sound.
I cant tell you how many people keep upgrading speakers and are never really pleased.
The need to upgrade their source so they can really hear what their amps and speakers really sound like.
Put you bigest bang in the source.
Thanks for the comments from fellow posters. Monsterbill puts things into perspective as Dave probably prefers to keep to a budget. But my experience tells me that cables are just another "component". Yet unlike electronics, they are more readily obtained and tested in ones system. Because of this, I'd say anyone putting together a nice sounding system that they want to own for an extended time ought to consider spending a bit more on cables than they might imagine. Granted, it's hard to specify dollar amounts, but keep in mind that the goal for the beginner is to keep their system for a very long time or until their tastes change. I don't think any of us started out believing that we'd end up swapping every component in our systems (several times over) before we found something easy to live with. Instead, cables offer the quickest route to learning these points. Here's a rough example from personal experience. A friend bought a pair of beautiful ProAc 1SC speakers ($2,100 retail) and a Krell300i ($2,500 integrated amp). He had an inexpensive Marantz CC65 cd player ($500 retail, stock). With the wrong cables, his system sounded bright, harsh, and uninvolving. With carefully selected cables, he had a simple system that recreated the musical experience--in short he was satisfied. So, while not a rock bottom budget system, it helps demonstrate why imo many people budget too much on their cd player and relegate cables to an afterthought. It's not necessarily the case that the right cables will cost more, just that they ought not be bought "off the spool" without some thought given to the choice. Of course overspending on the cd player will make buying the first cheap cable a near knee-jerk reaction. Monsterbill, thanks for the website. Can you can be more specific about any budget system building articles?
Hi Dave; at this point in your audio/music interest, I'd suggest not getting too hung up on such things as inter-connects, power cords, and speaker cables. Concentrate on the basics of a good system whatever your budget is-- this would include source, pre-amp, amp (or integrated amp), and speakers. Initially consider modestly priced but good quality ICs and spkr cables-- a trusted dealer can help here. Power cords, ICs and other wires get discussed here, sometimes heatedly, because they are controversial-- especially when it comes to cost vs perfromance. and also because most experienced audiophiles already have what they want in components. So for now, I'd suggest focusing on the basics, many of which have been discussed in the above posts. Welcome, and Cheers. Craig.
a cable should not be required to tame a bright system.if its bright your problem is with the speakers or amp.
Though considering the amp Krell I am not surprized.
kidding aside.If you friend had a 1500.00 used CD player it might not be so bright.Remember garbage in=garbage out.
Dont get caught up on cables in the bigining.
Once you have had a system for a few months you will now its sound and then you can try different cables and be able to tell.dont rush.
Welcome Dave, great advice above. I agree with most and feel you've gotten some great guidence. I would prioritize speakers of 90db or higher as your first concern. Once you've established one or two speakers you like I'd test for good matching with an amp. or if your budget is limited a good integrated. Once you've established your system look for a good matching front end. I would not skimp on the cd player though, just leave it till the end. I think a guideline for budget might be 35% speakers,30% amp/pre-amp,25% front end and 10% interconnects and cables. This is only a guideline but something on this order is a good start. I would recommend getting "The Complete Guide to High-End Audio" by Robert Harley. This book is avalible at most bookstores and make a great read for the beginner. Later once your system is up and running you may decide to try conditioners, power cords, different cables, footers and shelving, etc. but don't rush into it. I'm afraid some of us (me) get way to passionate about our systems and talk about these tweaks as if that was the end all, it's not. You must start somewhere and the advice above all leads to the begining. Feel free to write me or any of us through our e-mails if you want more in depth help. I'm alway very honored and excited when people write for advice or just to chat. Have fun above all, good-luck, it's nice to have you aboard. J.D.
Great post Jadem6.Check out www.uhfmag.com they have a 20 minute HIFI course.also 2 books for beginers
They tell a good story .
Dave: Since a few posters are pushing Harley's book, let me push the antidote. Call or write The Audio Critic (PO Box 978, Quakertown PA 18951; 215-538-9555) and order back issues #16 and 20. #16 has an article called "Basic Issues of Equipment Reviewing and Critical Listening" along with a technical analysis of the real sonic effects of speaker cables. #20 features a piece called "The Tweaks vs. the Pros," which gets to the root of the disparate advice you've gotten above. Either #24 or #25 has a similar summary article, but I don't remember which and I've loaned my copies out. Anyway, 4 issues will cost you $24, and it'll at least give you the other side of the argument, if you believe there's a legitimate argument here.
The Audio Critic is not what we would want anyone with an interest in hifi to read.The guy is a lunatic.
When someone makes statments like all amplifiers sound the same.This is a direct quote.Well do you really want to read more.
Besides Leafs' point above, "The Audio Critic" has been proven to be a liar, scammer, deceiver and manipulator. How "fair" is it to review a set of speakers, give them glowing praise, say that they are amongst the finest you've ever heard and then forget to mention that you ( the reviewer ) are the owner and designer of said speakers and speaker company ???? That's what the "audio critic" did... Sean
Please keep this on topic. The Audio Critic is a source of much debate, and it belongs in a separate thread, for those who wish to debate it. We have a summary of three sides about Audio Critic above, so let's end it at that, before this thread wanders off. Please start a different thread for any further posts about said magazine
Some people above would like you to listen to only one kind of advice, Dave. Before you assume that everything you've been told here is true, I'd suggest you find out for yourself.
Wow. You are a sheep in a wolf's den here. Your approach could vary from between $1000-100,000 so you need to take your time, experiment with what you like and dislike and have fun along the way.