Next Biggest Improvement after Speakers ?

I know that different speakers offer the biggest and most dramatic difference and/or sonic improvement over other components in a system.
In your opinion, from personal experience, what component[s] usually offers the NEXT biggest sonic difference and/or improvements: Front end? Preamp? Power amplifier? Interconnects and Cables?
In what order,[most to least]?

Power Amp
In my experience, amplifiers and speakers tend to be synergistic. I'd encourage you to consider your choice of amplifier in association with your speaker selection. That being said, of the systems I've built or worked with, the greatest impact after speakers has come first from the front end, then preamp (or phono stage if using vinyl), then amplifier, then cables. In vinyl systems, until one experiences this it can be surprising how overwhelming are the differences among phono stages. And, notwithstanding the above, (1) it is the SYSTEM and how all of the components complement one another that matters and (2) it ALL makes a difference - everything has a sound and everything changes the sound of your system.
Hi, My ears say it's the room and speaker set-up. Speakers should be properly position and nothing (no rack, stand or TV) between them. As for the gear,if you listen at mostly low to moderate levels and have high eff.speakers (1) an all tube integrated amp, very musical and involving sound.(2) (The right match of cables for synergy.(3) Try 2 dedicated lines(1 digital,1 analog) also with upgraded outlets.(sold my line conditioner)(4) In some rooms a powered sub is needed to help the tube integated amp and speakers out.(5)And of course a cd/dvd player(with the right player this could be no. (2) on your list. 24/96 or 24/192, dac,tubes, dvd-a , sacd, what ever sounds good to you. Overall keep it simple and fun and try a few free tweaks. Jerry
You left one out: the ROOM.

Brian Walsh
rushton is right on. amps and speakers are a marriage some work well together and some dont. also, cables play a very important part in having everything come together ( cables are just as important as a component imo)

your front end and pre amp are extremely important. it all starts at your front end, if your source isnt musical, then it will not make to your pre and then to your amps and then your speakers.

overall your system is only as good as weakest link. it hard to find a good preamp (they start @ $3k new and $1500 used). there are plenty of good amp, speakers, sources, and cables. getting it all to work together ( ie synergism) is a completely differnt story.

all of us remember when we heard our first high end system, chances are it was in a audio shop and waaayyy more than could be afforded.

so you start assemblying your system piece by piece in hopes of it sounding like you the first system you heard or maybe better as hear more systems.

the sad truth is there are no 2 exact systems anywhere in the world with the same type of room.

as you go along your expectactions change and your notice that good components start @ $3k each and good cables start at $600 each (imo)

so during this whole process ( it is fun) you will find certain combinations of gear work together well and it really takes a very good dealer to help you out and / or other audiophiles and it takes 1-2 years to sometimes tweak a system ( thats how long in my case) and i am know starting to get good sound after 10 years at this.

hope this helped.


All good answers, the room is very important and can be 50% of the sound or more sometimes. The Speaker and amp marriage is critical. I recently upgraded to different speakers and when I got them home, they sounded like crap, not musical at all. I tried a bunch of preamps to get the sonics to improve but in the end chaning the amp gave me the synergy that I needed. The a good source is critical to get you to the next level. One you have the sonics you are looking for then you need to see what peramp will work with your system, every component sounds different as do cables, rooms, etc. so that you time to find what you are looking for and experiment.

Happy Listening.
speakers, amps, and room can be thought of as one synergetic system. Get that right, then concentrate on getting the source+preamp part right, then mate that to your speaker+amp+room combination (consider voicing, impedance matching, gain issues, etc between the two synergetic systems). wires and racks and tweaks, etc come last.

The source+preamp dictates what you [i]can get[/i], and the speakers+amp+room dictate what you [i]do get[/i]. Or maybe it's the other way around? Either way. Some say source is most important, some say speakers+amp+room are most important. The dilemma (or is it paradox?) is they are both right.
Your source is most important, IMO.
The smart ass answer would be the next biggest improvement after 'buying' the speakers is

1. placing them in the correct locations in your listening room

2. treating the room.

Then get a good amp to load them to your room. Then re-treat the room again (to dial in bass response and soundstaging/imaging, which would all improve with a better amp). This answer may give you a little more to work with.

FWIW - normally I subscribe to the idea that source is more important, but if you subscribe to the idea that speakers are more important (no more right than my POV, no one has stereos 'figured out') then speaker+amp+room loading is your next step.

then do source - cd or phono? that will dictate what source or preamp or linestage your need. active/passive, cd direct into amps? phono? how much gain (linestage and or phono) will you need? is the output from your digital source poorly designed? do you need a buffer? tubes to sweeten it up, etc? There are many schools of thought and they all have their advantages and drawbacks. But it's all about building a single synergetic system in the end. It just varies on how one approaches and attacks the problem. No right or wrong answers. Well, err, those you suggest $300 dvd sources for $22k speakers should be shot on sight. But everything else is OK. :-)
It depends what you are trying to accomplish. There have been many good comments made so far.

Everything in the system is important, but IMO speakers are the least important. All they do is reproduce what comes to them. They do not create signal! They will not add back into the music what was lost coming down the line.

The most important thing in a system is the room. Nothing will sound good in a bad room. It doesn't matter how good the system is if the room keeps it from being able to reproduce music. Make sure the room is good.

Second most important thing is the source. CD, SACD, Vinyl, cassette, 8-track or tuner. If the equipment with which you procure the music doesn't get it off of the source it is lost throughout the chain. Get the best CDP, or Cartridge you can justify and get the most from the source!!!

Third, follow the signal to the speakers. Cartridge - arm - TT - cable - phono stage - cable - pre-amp - cable - amp - speaker cable - speakers.

Every piece will effect the signal. Buy pieces that cause the least detrimental effect on the signal. Make sure as much of the signal taken from the source arrives at the speakers as possible. If a poor signal arrives at the speakers they will reproduce junk, if a good signal arrives they will sound good.

Speakers are important, but they are the least important thing in the room. Get good speakers, but make sure the equipment upstream is worthy of them.
1 Speakers 2 Room 3 Source 4 Pre/Amp 5 Dedicated Lines 6 Cables JM(temporary)HO!
I myself started off purchasing the speakers first because I new what I wanted, to build my system around them. I already had a pretty nice amp and knew I could live with it and get a new one later, besides I believe that an amp could only change sound so much. The next thing I bought were some nice Cardas Cables and noticed a slight improvement but not enough to consider it a dramatic improvement but it was favorable. I should note that I have B&W 804N Speakers which are known for little bass but I wasn’t worried because I have a pretty good subwoofer. The next thing I wanted to get was a pre amp. After reading a lot of articles and had somewhat of an understanding what type of sound I was looking for, I purchased a Pre Amp, a tube pre amp, a Cary SLP94L. This component changed my system more than I could ever have imagined. So much that I don’t even need my subwoofer any more, the bass is perfect. Its exactly what I was looking for and is so quick. I never new what quick bass was until I heard this preamp. It really gave me understanding of what was being discussed in these articles in magazines and in Audiogon. The highs are midranges are superb as well. I can only imagine what a new amp will do but I don’t know if I need to improve on what I already have. If I do I can’t wait to find one that I want.
source is paramount you can not improve anything downstream
without addressing the source first. then the speakers next.
How come no one mention about the CHAIR :(
Source Source Source.

Speakers only reproduce whats fed them,

So how can they be the most important part of a System.

Speakers are the one item that has the largest profit margin for dealers and Speaker MFG,
Typically the margin on Electronics is about 25/30%.

Speaker margins are 50/75%

Thats why the dealers say speakers is where to put most of your cash.


Rooms 3 Identical Systems

3 different sources

3 Different sounds.

Which room sounds best?

not the one with the most expensive source, but the one with the best source of the 3.

$ and sound quality have nothin to do with each other.
It's been said, but the room is the most important thing. An average system can sound good in a great room. A great system will sound average in a poor room.

Then address the source. Mlauner is right nothing will add back into the system what was missed at the source.

All things being equal speakers are the least important link in the chain.

Ivor is right in his hiarchy of importance. He just forgot to mention that the room is Number 1!!!

Rooms are easier and cheaper to tweak too!
Well, now for a contrarian point of view regarding this old chicken vs egg argument. Obviously the room is the most important item, however I never bought Ivor's argument for one reason - If you pick high quality, neutral and revealing speakers to match your room, you can (and probably will) change your electronics to tailor your sound - or not -and you'll always hears the difference(s). But if you have poor speakers all you will hear is poor sound and you won't know why, let alone what the differences are in the electronics that you are paying for.! A quality pair of well chosen speakers can easily last 15 to 25 years - 2 to three times longer than your electronics will. The only hitch to this is that getting these speakers first will sort of demand that you assemble high quality electronics and sources which might be a financial burden for some.
The Pre amp with out a doubt, Then maybe the CHAIR.
Nrchy, Ivor wasn't exactly unbiased. His primary goal was to sell turntables. What do you think he would say?

Assume you are correct that the source is most important and all the other elements in the chain only degrade the signal. Can't you at least admit that the speakers would be second in importance, simply because they have more potential to screw up the sound than any other component? To say speakers are the least important component (less than cables?) seems disingenuous to me.

Like others have said, balance is the key. Every component must be of high quality or the weakest one will define the character of the system.
Hello, Dalton. There is a small camp here in Agon that believes the amplifier is far more important than the speaker for best sonic improvements.

I believe that the best amplifier in the world can make a pair of mediocre speakers sound fantastic. But the best speakers in the world will never sound better than the mediocre amplifier driving them.

I'd recommend concentrating on the amp first (and by a wide margin), and then speakers next.

Actually Uppermidfi, I would argue that the source starts with the LP spinning on the platter then it goes to the cart (and arm) then phono stage. If the vinyl is not spinning flat, true, and constant the cart's performance will be compromised. (In my experience). So I would get the best table I could afford. Your mileage may vary (and perhaps it does!). No right or wrong answers. :-)
Aroc, I don't know that we disagree a lot. I would not put a shelter 901 or a Lyra Titan on a Dual CS 505, but I also would not put a Sumiko Pearl on a Walker Procenium Turntable.

At the same time the better cartridge will sound better than a lesser cartridge on any given TT. The cartridges ability to retrieve the signal is extremely dependant on the arm and table doing their job correctly. So a better cartridge is always more important to the ultimate signal that arrives at the speakers. I'm not sure if there are any right answers either, since there is a lot more opinion and a lot less fact involved in this hobby.
Interesting, but not to surprising, responses. I am in the speakers camp of 'the most important' as I feel they have a huge influence on the whole. I also believe that amp and speaker matching is important.

John's (Stehno) views above I find interesting and would be intrigued by experimentation...not that I am about to embark on this.

I am not convinced of source being 'the most' important, though all links have their level of importance. Even inexpensive source componants today put out 'decent' performance, but cheap speakers will show immediatly. Just my opinion.

Therefore, my opinion, in answer to your question would be the amp.
Allow me to summarize everyone's point. They are EQUALLY important, you can't cut short anywhere.
The reason I think speakers have the biggest influence on the sound is because their overall frequency response, dispersion patterns, room interactions, sensitivities, cone or dome materials, and designs, etc., varies so greatly between different manufacturers, and even in different models from the same manufacturers.You also have electrostatic, ribbon, and planar speakers which have totally different radiation patterns than cone and dome speakers.Even in an anechoic chamber ALL speakers frequency responses usually vary by atleast + or - 2 db., and usually more over the full frequency range! A difference of + or - .5 db can be audible!
Speakers, by far, have changed the final sound of my system more than any other components. I have owned MANY PAIRS of speakers over the years, including different models from the same manufacturer, and none of them sound any where near alike! Thanks for all of your responses to my thread so far.They are all very interesting!
Is it safe to say that many of the people posting here think that speakers are the most likely to have a detrimental effect on the sound so they are more important!?!

Does that mean speaker designs are the most flawed of all the chain?

Just because you don't get sound out of an amp, preamp or cable doesn't make them less important than speakers.

I think it was Nrchy that said all things being equal speakers are the least important. That makes a lot more sense than saying speakers are the most important because they are not as well made or designed. BUT can we really trust an Nrchist?