Most important link: Source? Pre-amp?or?

I saw, this one, on the "audioreview" survey once, and was surprised to see that more than 70% of voters chose:........! I am curious too se the opinions of "highly-audio-educated" Audiogon "crowd".
The survey SAYS ... I'll put my money on the speakers if digital sourced, turntable if analog sourced. I once bought into the Scottish 'top down' theory (Linn that is), and was quite happy with an LP-12 running to a Linn preamp, NAD amp, and some speakers that I'm too embarassed to mention. Then I broke free of the Linn cult, and fell into the tube religion, which preaches careful choice of speaker mates. While going through many speakers, I noticed that a system's flavor can range the full gamut, more so than changing anything else. I currently believe that the speakers are the most compromised part of a system, even before your room mangles the sound further. But hey, give me a few months, and ask again .......
Not a fair question. In a well balanced system every component is equally important. Kinda', you'll never sound better than your worst component. Turn the question around to -- "What's the least important component? My vote costs to cables and interconnects. Many high end system builders allocate way to much for these items in their budgets. Be that as it may, the direct answer to YOUR question is the speaker/room interface.
Here is a highly opinionated belief by yours truly. All else equal, speakers are by far the most important component in your system. I would recommend putting 60+% of your overall budget into the speakers, get adequate amplification next, and then make compromises elsewhere (CD player?). I have found the differences between a $200 CD player and a $12,000 combo one very subtle. Try it with speakers and the difference will blow you out of your seat. Also, the speakers are the weakest link in reproducing accurate sound.
should plenty of $$ be spent on the preamp in a home theater system? up to $4-6k can be spent just to produce an adequate sound stage and accurate DSP for presentation! I'm struggling with the same cost-splitting decisions now. I've got $10k to spend for speakers, amp, preamp and sub. One day I go from spending $5700 for B&W Nautilus 804, HTM-1 center channel and nautilus 805 surrounds and getting lesser quality amp/preamp/sub combos. The next day I'm thinking of spending $2800 for the Lexicon DC-2 with full upgrades (best price I've found new or used). Anyway, I'm rambling... my point is that I don't think there's a right way to do it, so just do it and be happy with your decision. I do think I'm going to spend the majority of my $$ (in my case, 60% as Alruhl suggested above: $5700 speakers out of $10k budget) on speakers... any comments? thanks for reading... -baz
Hi ElDragon; I've asked myself this question about 10K times. I think Onhwy61 had a good response that I agree with-- the speaker/room interface is absolutely critical. Other than that, and I know it's a cliche', but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We did some remodeling a couple years ago, and I went from a small listening room to medium-large one-- the difference in music character/quality was huge, ie much more than any componet or speaker change. In my case the change was good as I previously had too big speakers in a too small room. This observation assumes at least a decent set of components to begin with. I've got a feeling that vinyl lovers are going to say "HQ turntable?" Having said all the above--- I LOVE MY McCORMACK AMPLIFIER.
I have to agree with the speaker/room interface. This is most noticeable when you listen to speaker's at a dealers soundroom then at home, they hardly ever sound the same and most of the time worse provided that your dealer has a well treated room. I have been struggling with this problem while trying to incorporate a high end stereo system into a home theater for an all in one approach. I can tell you I failed miserably and will be splitting up the home theater in to 2 seperate systems. The problem was the room I was using for home theater, since it is the same room we normally entertain in acoustically treating it does not pass the girlfriends muster and mine as well. It sucks the bass out like a hoover so much so that I must use 3 subs to attain the bass response for home theater and it has terrible reflections that rob the music of it's imaging and sound stage. I have a room upstairs that I will be setting up my 2 channel rig, without any treatment it sounds about 35% better than my room downstairs and I plan on doing some room treatment to make it even better. I am just hoping that the impending room correction devices form Meridian and Perpetual Tech deliver on there promises so we can all rejoice in getting closer to removing the room from the equation.
I agree that the speaker/room interface is the most important aspect of a HiFi system. but now we have another tool to tackle this problem : digital correction by using DSP boxes beetwen the CD transport and the Converter . this is the future ! i got fantastic results with the following : Digital signal coming from a goldmund 36+ into an upsampler Weiss SCF2 (to 24/96 khz) then correction of the speaker/room interface with a Weiss equalizer (working at 24/96 in digital) then upsampling to 192khz with a DCS 972 and finally converting into analog with the DCS Elgar. I do not think it is possible to get better. olivier
I agree with Bob Harley: the source components are the most important.
This scenario requires a certain premise to be valid, that being that the components considered (room included) are of relatively good quality (defining this is of course an endeavor unto itself). All things being equal, it is obvious that the SOURCE will make or break a system, and it is where the "lion's share" of the budget should go, IMHO. Garbage in, garbage out, as the "flat-earthers" say.
I believe the most important links are at the beginning and the end of the chain. I agree with anyone who says the room is the most important factor, but I also believe that the media (LP, CD, Tape) is important. A terrible recording can't be helped by changing equipment. During the oil "crisis" of the mid 70's, many LPs were released which sounded horrible. Thery were full of imbedded pops and clicks and the surface noise was very high (Virgin and Atco/Atlantic are two labels which come to mind). We were told that the records were made thinner to conserve resources. I still have some of those records and they sound terrible on any system they are played on. Look at the time and effort some labels spend to make terrific sounding albums. These companies realize, as was mentioned above, garbage in, garbage out.
Hi Rayd; Even though I'm not a vinyl fan now (I was in the 60's and 70's), that bit of info. about the poor quality of LPs because of the oil shortage is really interesting and amazing. I didn't know the oil shortage had those kinds of consequences. I remember waiting in line at the gas pumps though. Thanks.