It varies from system to system. The only way to find out is to experiment.
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I agree with ZD.
I would add that the importance of the cables between preamp and amp will tend to be greatest if the output impedance of the preamp is high (as it often is for many tube-based preamps), and their importance will also increase in proportion to the length of the cables, and their importance will generally tend to be greater if the cables are unbalanced as opposed to balanced.
The same considerations apply to the cables from disc player to preamp.
The importance of speaker cables will tend to be greatest if the impedance of the speakers is low, and it will increase in proportion to the length of the cable. If the speakers are electrostatics, choosing speaker cables having low inductance will also tend to be important, especially if the cables are long. The importance of the speaker cables MIGHT also tend to increase if the amplifier uses significant amounts of feedback and/or has particularly wide bandwidth, and (for dynamic speakers) if the woofers are particularly sensitive to damping factor.
Hope that helps. Regards,
Generally, I'm a skeptic on the benefits of insanely expensive cables, power or interconnect. However, I remember the first time I upgraded my CD interconnect from the manufacturer- supplied one to an Audioquest Ruby (modestly priced). It was a huge difference! Since then I have used KimberKables and Tara Labs for all interconnects in my system.
Are ICs important? Yes.
Do quality ICs (and all of ICs, speaker and power cables in general) make a difference? yes ... and the effects are much more graphic as one moves up the equipment food chain.
But the pre-amp to amp IC is just one link in the array. The entire IC - speaker - power cable array matters ...big-time.
I cannot agree that your notion of the ICs between the pre-amp and amp can be allowed to fall behind as the laggard in the chain .... just as with quality-build source versus a cheap alternative ..... garbage in = garbage out.
Again, the effects are also exponential as one moves up the gear quality (and price) food chain....full stop.
try some Purist audio Design cables .
Very Very quiet.
I am using there ultimate USB from Jriver pc and their Dominus digital to the Lampizator Big 6 Dac and Venustas from the DAC to pre.Pre is Anthem D1
I have never been completely satisfied with various cables in this setup ... until now.
They are not cheap, but IMO well worth the price .
I am finally off of the cable train.
I used the Cable Company for demos
68Pete - you have received a wealth of good info from various posters - Almag's observations should be of particular interest and made note of.
A practice I have always adopted is to try to ensure the best cables are in place in the following order
1. Speaker cables first
2. next - pre-amp to amp
3. then source to pre-amp
4. finally - TT to phono (a source)
The reason for what some people may think of as bass-ackwards is because - if the speaker cables are not the best quality - they will not reveal all of the benefits of upgrading an interconnect.
This was a theory until recently - when I installed an extremely good IC from my phono to my amp. The full benefit could not be heard until I upgraded the speaker cables to a pair of a similar quality, then the full benefits of this IC upgrade could really be heard.
But I stress - these were extremely high end cables with exraordinary resolution capabilities.
So to answer your question simply - I consider the IC between the pre-amp and amp to be second only to speaker cables in their "level of importance".
Having said that - I have an integrated amp, so I have no first hand experience with this actual type of IC. :-)
But wire is wire :-)