It's all "important", but I would focus on matching an amp with your speakers.
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It's not necessarily about the amount of money. After speakers, find the right
amp match as mentioned above. This may or may not be the next highest
amount you spend. It doesn't need to be so.
I have found source and preamp quality is directly related to cost, so IMO, the
source and preamp are often the highest cost components in my system.
From highest to lowest cost (retail) in my system:
2) amplifiers (mono)
4) digital source
5) power cords
6) analog source (including table/arm/cartridge)
7) power conditioning/dedicated lines
9) audio rack
10) miscellaneous vibration control tweaks
11) phono preamp
12) speaker cabling (by far the biggest bang for the buck in my system)
AMR CD77 (9K cdp) and "Bose" Cubes would be the way the above gentleman would like you to spend your money. Nice........
Matching gear/speakers has little to do with the amount spend.
Speakers and amp matching is essential.
Transparent preamp with quality source is also very important but should be consider after ideal speakers>amp match.
If you are talking digital then $1000 gets you a darn good source if you are
careful/selective (after you get diminishing returns). A darn good pre and
power amp can be had for around $5000 again being selective. $1500 is
where things begin in speakers but above $5000 is where things are
significantly improving although I would guesstimate that above $20,000 on
a speakers or $10,000 on a sub you are starting to reach into diminishing
returns. Room acoustics is very room dependent but an expense on par with
the cost of your source and amplification seems sensible. (Room acoustics
can easily do more damage to the sound than most entry level source/amps,
If you are looking at a TT you may have to spend a lot more on source - but I
have been out of that for a long time so I can't comment.
In my book you reach diminishing returns fastest with a source and amp and
slowest with speakers and room acoustics. Speaker and room acoustics is
where all the bad stuff happens (distortion, reverberation etc.) In that sense a
modest system in a good acoustic environment will outdo an all out assault
on equipment in an untreated poor acoustic environment.
Probably the single most important thing you can do is to get a house with a
a really good room for listening. No amount of effort will put lipstick on a
pig. As concert goers will know - some concert halls are stunning and
marvelous and others are just well impossibly bad.
Of course careful buying of used on Audiogon can get you all of the above
gear for a "song" if you are patient and don't mind old gear with a few dings
Damn... you guys are making me feel worse for selling my Michell Tecnodec/ZU103 and keeping my Rega P2.
I think the money spent on source and less on speakers makes sense.
Where does amp and preamp fit into all this? Monoblocks vs Stereo amp vs integrated?
Also damn Canadian dollar..... sighhh.. the good times are over.
Because of the bigger soundstage my new speakers have changed the way cd's sound in my room more than any other gear. That proved something to me. I still say speakers are most important matched to an amp and then source. Something I read once still sticks in my mind; a cable manufacturer wrote (I'm paraphrasing) that audiophiles constantly change gear never realizing the full potential of the gear they had because the cables they used were the weak link and holding back the potential of the setup. So cables may be most important for the phile who already has great speakers and other gear but is not getting pleasing performance. Every comment here is an unproven theory however. All of us can only provide our take.
Source. Not players or other electronics - source material. I'd already gotten to the point of getting almost all gear used (or doing my own for room stuff), so the only significant expenditures for really new stuff is source.
I also measure this more in terms of overall investment (money + time + whatever) than just funds. Yes, I freely admit to having put most money into speakers (the only things that actually make sound...) and there is just a little money in amps, etc. If there is any truth to "you get what you pay for" then if you want good sound you have to have something that makes good sound - ergo I am in the "speakers first" camp (and if you're into analog sources then there is also some consideration there, too). You can find good gear and good deals if you spend some darned time looking, so the actual dollar outlay may not be nearly as big as some others have spent. Other than that the investment in finding decent electronics and getting the room(s) set up is kinda ongoing and is now measured more by time than $$$. But the investment in source material is never-ending...
I have 4 systems, and in all of my mixing and matching etc, I have found that source and electronics are more important.
One of my 1st heavily front ended systems was a Linn Lp12/Ittok/black koetsu/Mitch Cotter step up into a NAD 3020 into a pair of ADS 320 bookshelf speakers.
Total cost of that system was around 3700, with around 3k of it in the front end.
The sound was amazingly good and fun to listen to.
Wow - what an insane thread. Some of the polarizeed views suggest that Bose and Noel Lee has been extremely succesful at marketing their cheap speakers and expensive cables.
Anyone who thinks that any old speaker will do clearly does not understand the relative difference in distortion levels between electronics and speakers. I know the math can be daunting for some but fwiw we are talking factors of over a thousand times worse for good speakers and hundreds of thousands of times worse for an el cheapo Bose or its equivalent speaker.
Headphones anyone? (for $500 you can get a decent pair)
Shadorne, what a simplistic explanation. To clarify, not only must the magnatude of the distortion be considered, but the spectra and type of that distortion. As an example, is the 3% second harmonic distortion of a loudspeaker less consonant with the fabric of the music than .3% IM in an amp? Let's look a bit deeper. Although of a lower order, IM is unrelated to the musical signal, whereas second harmonic distortion is completely related to the signal and sweetens it, adding to the second harmonic, which is there naturally. Likewise, is 3% second harmonic distortion more irritating than .3% fifth harmonic distortion?
My contention is that electronic distortions are much more jarring to the ear than most distortions produced by loudspeakers, but the meters and mics guys always want to reduce the equation to easily quantifiable numbers.
I would focus first on the proper amp, or integrated amp to drive my speakers. Now that doesn't mean that I'm spending more money on the amp than the source, but the amp/speaker interface is very important. A really great amp may or may not be very expensive, it all depends on how it interacts with your speakers.
A premium source is also a high priority. The real key is balance. A great source with a cheap reciever will not get you any better sound than a cheap source with a great amp.
Sorry, there is no real answer, only you can determine what works for you.
Following Tvad's example, right now my money (MSRP) is in:
1) Analog Source (table/arm/cartridge)
3) Integrated amp
4) Digital source
5) Various tweaks, rack and isolation devices
6) Power conditioning/dedicated lines
7) Power cords
8) Speaker cables
Has anyone even considered the room in this thread? About 50% of the sound we hear is indirect--coming from the speaker interaction with the room. Putting a small investment in the room can frequently yeild results that could not be had for 10 times the cost in equipment.
Just a thought. (Yes, I'm biased on this subject)
As an example, is the 3% second harmonic distortion of a loudspeaker less consonant with the fabric of the music than .3% IM in an amp?
Good point but 3% distortion in a speaker is amazingly good and 0.3% IM distortion in an amp is lousy. You are quite right that some forms of distortion are far worse than others though and I agree that IM is one of the bad kinds - great point there. FWIW, there is a good correlation between IM distortion and THD figures for amps...low THD generally means low IMD. I agree speaker harmonic distortion is fairly benign - you scored another point there - although high 3rd harmonic is fairly common in speakers and this is BAD. Also speaker transient response is usually abysmal and looks nothing like a real transient (amps are usually very good at this) - so there are lots of details to argue over, however I maintain that speakers are usually the most inaccurate device in any audio chain.
Regardless of the numbers, as long as my speakers weren't so poor that they were toxic to the music, I would spend all I could on the source *and plan for downstream upgrades later*.
I think that's the point in the source-first/speakers-first argument: it has to do with how to plan for upgrades, not with how a system is best balanced. Heck, give me great speakers now and I won't say no. However IME it is much more fun to listen to a great source through ordinary speakers than the other way around.
Since upgrading is so expensive, it makes sense to me to spend on the source of my dreams and listen to it initially through speakers that are enjoyable but somewhat less refined. Soon as the cash is available, it's speaker upgrade time.
I would personally argue that speakers are the most important (if you don't like your speakers, you won't like anything you are hearing), followed very closely by analog source. After that, amplification, then digital source. Everything else, though not unimportant, is much less important than these major components. So to the original poster's question, I would say the amp needs to be more carefully chosen than the CD player, particularly if there are other sources, especially vinyl, involved.
You need to balance everything. If the plan is to upgrade, then have an end plan for where you want to be.
My initial reaction was "get the best speakers that you can" but i think that I may have changed my mind.
I don't think that anyone has mentioned it, speakers are extremely important, but at a certain point, they start making inferior upstream components sound worse, much worse, so a "better" speaker with bad sources will sound worse.
In my personal experience, I can take my main speakers out of the system ($20,000 speakers) and put in a pair of speakers that I rebuilt and have about $700 in and the system still sounds wonderful. These speakers were about $2000 or so in the 1980's and are not typical "$700" speakers, but certainly a fraction of the price of the mains. But if I keep the mains in and take out the sources and replace with cheaper gear, it starts to sound bad in a hurry.
That being said, balance is very important. Going back to the initial question, try to have a certain level in mind and shoot for that with the whole system. If you need to continually upgrade to be at the end point, buy on Audiogon so that a good portion of the depreciation is already accounted for.
Also do you guys concur that speakers cables are
I do not concur.
As far as I can tell, none of the posts in this thread suggest speaker cables
As far as your system is concerned...three preamps, three amplifiers, four
speakers...it's impossible to determine a weak link because the system is not
They are all equally important!!! As with anything else you must find a good BALANCE.
As I drive my modded 5 series Bimmer at 130mph going into a corner--which is most important-- tires,suspension, brakes, or throttle response??
Answer: They all better be equally as good or my ass is gravy!
Get the picture?
I can't believe that people still believe it is the speakers the most important part of the chain!!!!amazing!!!!
Let me quote Gerard Rejskind editor in chief of UHF magazine; " if the distortion is in the source,can even the best loudspeaker remove it / if the information is missing from the source signal,can even the best loudspeaker putit back / put a badsource through a good pair of loudspeakers,and you will hear with greater than ever clarity how awful the source is"
>>>and that has been my personal experience.Of course you need to know what a truly great source can do..
If course,you must also use common sense,and make sure the components you use are a good match up in everyway,if you can do even that,there is nothing left to say...
As far as room Acoustics are concerned,there are more speakers that are more vulnerables than others to speaker-room interactions..In my experience there are speakers that are superb for nearfield listening[e.g Harbeth]that is almost totally immune to the type of rooms you put them
Jazzkid to answer your question, I think that the weakest link of your system is the blue coloured painting of your room. Blue is transmitting a kind of psychological perception, which one may associate with cold, distance and being without emotive connections. Try repaint your room to a warmer sunnier color. Than you may change the location of your speakers. There are lots of info on this issue.
Shadome--sorry I missed that in your second paragraph. I should read more carefully. I will say that I do subscribe to the "weakest link" theory to a large degree. The system should work in balance and great speakers with a lousy source or lousy speakers with a great source--well you'ld probably do a lot better to have moderate speakers with a moderate source. By in large however I find that the room is the gating factor to how good a system can sound. A medium system in a great room will outperform a great system in a bad room hands down.
I think the source is important (the recording most of all)but that diffences between CD players is relatively minor compared with difference between speakers - That is diminishing returns start rather low with digital equipment IMHO, so I think a good $1,000 to $2,000 Cd player is going to be pretty darn good, wheras speakers differ a lot and you need to spend quite a bit more to really start hitting dimishing returns - maybe $10,000 or so. IMHO, the speaker choice must be made first and will determine the general sound of your system, the digital source while critical is unlikely to be a major weak link since to my ears at a certain point they sound more and more alike. After finding a speaker I like, I would spend a lot of time (not necessarily money) finding an amp that really works well with my speaker (great speakers, and great amps can sound bad if this interface is not well matched), and I would learn somethin about speaker placement and treating room acoustics.
.......the blue walls stay!Oh dear! Oh dear! That is so sad ;-)
I have a blue house with a blue window
Blue is the color of all that I wear
Blue are the streets and all the trees are blue
I have a girlfriend and she is so blue
Blue are the people here that walk around
Blue like my corvette its sitting outside
Blue are the words I say and what I think
Blue are the feelings that live inside me