Ok this will be a good thread.

What in your opinion is the most important part of a good 2 channel system. Or what has the biggest impact on overall sound. For example if you feel Speakers are most important, or Preamp, Amp, Source. I am not looking for a ss vs. tube debate, just what do you feel is most important.

I will start:
I feel speakers are the most important part. I know lots of you are going to say electronics, but keep it to one part, like Preamp, Amp, etc.
source. crap in: crap out.
I'm in the source camp too.
I'd put the highest priority on the source. But I'd also add that Synergy between components/cables/tweaks plays a major roll in making or breaking a system. You can go out and randomly pick out a sampling of very expensive high end components that may sound like crap when combined together, whereas careful selection and pairing of some of the same components with others would yield a magical system. Speakers can potentially have the most radical effect/change on the 'sound of the system', but, as the first respondant points out; Garbage in = garbage out! Or, as I pointed out in another thread, changing the speakers may make the garbage smell sweeter, but it's still garbage!
The person(or you) behind the system.
A good, but oft repeated thread. Source
Musiqlovr, I whole heartedly agree with you, speakers should always come first. Let me explain.

I use to frequent an audio business of rare quality. It was owned by Keith Yates of home theater design fame. He carried only the very best components. I watched and listened to a parade of great speakers debut on a weekly basis. All speakers enjoyed the best upstream components available. One speaker stood clearly above and beyond all others. I had to have that speaker. Knowing what kind of amp I needed to drive that speaker culled out almost all choices. I was lucky to have a wonderful cd player demonstrated at my place. That left only the pre amp. I just chose the most sonically invisible one I could afford.

I'm in music heaven now. And that is all because I realized the fallacy of front end first. It doesn't matter what golden player you plug into a sows ear of a speaker, it still will be a sows ear. I've heard plenty of great everything but the speaker systems, and every one was a disappointment.
in this case one-D thinking cannot be precise since saying that speakers or amp are the most important components is just like measuring the length of a shadow not knowing the actual position of the subject.

less demand certainly on the speaker if the amp is hell of a beefy and strong and the other way back.

how about building an amp or an active speaker with amp that perfectly accepts a speaker's impedance curve huh?
than the system will totally relay on source and pre-amplification. what if an amp is quite sencitive, having high input impedance and your listening room is not too big?
yes, you can get along with passive preamp and now the source is the most important component!

or i can offer you a simple statement:
i have a speakers but i know that there are better; i have an amp, but i know that there are better; but i have them together and i love them ONLY together...

one and THE only one exception and probably the most important part of a good 2 channel system is the music that YOU love - that's definitely number 1.
speakers...i don't think that my system will sound that bad if i replace the Audiomeca CD player with a $150 Pioneer DVD player, but i can bet that the system will suck big time if I replace my Innersound isis with $100 KLH speakers from best Buy...
I am in the all camp. If there is no head; it's a dumb. If there's no middle; the swan can't fly. If there's no tail; the Dragon sinks in the bath tub. :-)

You also need a big Ego to have those completed ... Just kidding... Hehehe.
6chac, lovely and funny as usual. Is this going to be a reunion?
Your listening space has the most effect, in my view, on the overall sound reproduced by your system. The recorded source obviously is what will most influence the sound you hear, but I'm focusing on the reproduction of that source.
A good pair of ears.
It is my humble belief that speakers play the most important part in a two-channel system.

I became convinced that speakers are the most important piece in a two-channel system when I heard a store rep hook-up a pair of B&W Nautilus 802 speakers to a Sony ES receiver and Sony ES CD changer. All of a sudden, J-Lo and Puff Daddy sounded incredible. The demo was done for another customer, not me, but I learned that quality speakers are the biggest improvement to a system you can make. Hook a pair of Bose to the same Sony ES receiver and a Clear Audio Turntable. IMO the ES and B&W combination will win hands down everytime.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not trying to play devil’s advocate. There are those who will argue that a two-channel system is only as good as the material entering your equipment (source material) and I respect that school of thought. However, it is my humble belief that speakers play the most important part in the overall experience one takes away from listening to music and thus are the most important piece in the system.

Dan S.
Speakers will make the bigest difference in any audio system, the differences between sources and amplification are minute compared to the possibilities with speakers. This is not to say the other components are not imporant, but merely that there is less varition in the sound of electronics than with acousitic transducers.
Sorry to be a bit acerbic, but I'm lost here; since when are your ears "PART of a good two channel system"? I'd also say the original question also takes for granted that you are listening to music you like, and that it is well-recorded music. If it is not well-recorded music there is nothing your two-channel system is going to do that can change that, and if you don't have two good ears, I'd say it is fairly obvious that you won't hear the music reproduced the same as someone with better hearing (although the music, and its accurate reproduction, certainly has the capacity to move both those who have impaired hearing, as well as those who can hear perfectly). Yes, the listening room and its contents and structure will certainly play a very important roll in how your system sounds, as well the placement of all of it. But again, the question seemed to be about the components themselves, and not things external to the system. My point is that you guys (& gals?) are straying, though I think 6chac has some very important things to say on this subject! Seriously though, I am surprised at those who would think the speaker can make up for a poor source component. In my experience I'd much rather listen to music (yes, music that I like) played through a good source component on a lesser quality speaker, then listen to a poor source on a great speaker (yes, I have tried both). I just have not found that the latter combination makes me want to listen very long...it is simply not as engaging. Whereas the former, and I have listened to this kind of combination, remains an engaging and non-fatiguing listen to me. Granted, my experience is limited, and is obviously very subjective (YMMV). Given a fixed budget, I would try to find a balance of all the components, but would put some extra $ into my source rather than my speakers. Again, my stress would be on synergy overall, but in my experience, the source is the most forgiving of all the components in combining with others. A great source component is likely to remain a great source component when combined with many different systems, whereas a specific 'great' amp may not as easily swap over throughout different systems and still retain its outstanding qualities in combination with various pre-amps and speakers.
Good one Rosstaman, I can agree with that. I don't feel I can pick one part of the system out. Like a car, which is the most important part? If you say engine, and drive with cheap brakes, you may be in trouble. Another good analogy is the old joke about which body part is most important. The brain says I am, because without me the body wouldn't know what to do. The heart said I am because without me working you, the brain wouldn't be able to function. The argument goes on and on between all the body parts, until the a**hole speaks up and says I'm the most important part. All the other body parts started LOL. The thought of the a**hole being the most important body part, ridiculous. Well the a**hole went on strike. A day or two later, the mind started shutting down, the heart was getting weak, the eyes became blurred. They all relented and admitted that the a**hole was the most important part.
Sorry for the poor telling of that old joke, but IMHO the whole system is only as good as it's weakest link. Great sources are wasted on subpar speakers, and vice versa. Ignore the electricity, and you'll never know how good those thousands of $$$'s of equipment will sound. You need to approach it from a whole systems outlook.

Just my $.02
Your system will always be limited by the weakest link. Doesn't matter if it is the source, speakers, amp or cables. A $10,000 system will still sound like garbage if one of the main components is a $99 piece of _____. ie, what would a Jadis system sound like with old bose 201s?
Your arguments are approaching the absurd. No one is saying other component consideration isn't important. What we "speakers first" are saying, they impart the greatest impact on your mind. I had one goal when I set out on my audio journey and that was to give voice to the greatest speaker I ever heard. That, in turn, began the best amp, pre amp, and front end search.
who cares about the rest!
oops meant to say...good bottle of wine and hot babe...who cares about the rest!
Speakers are the most important because they come first for me when building a system. I don't know the power requirements of the amp until the speakers are chosen. The source can be chosen first, but it has no limitation of working within a system like the speaker and amp combination. A particular source will work with any speaker/amp. A preamp may or may not be needed depending on the source or if an integrated amp is possible. Since all the choices can be based on subjective preference, it seems the answer comes down to other non-subjective parameters. The primary one that comes to mind is the wattage requirement of the speakers.
That is not to say I chose my speakers based on their wattage requirement. Room is a good answer too because not all speakers will work in all rooms.
JmcGrogan2, Ego = a**hole, you da man. :-)

Cheers! Muralman1
Speakers, unless you are using "source" correctly and referring to the records or cds that you are listening to. And then it would still be close. The simple reason is that speakers are much less accurate and have much higher levels of distortion than any electronic components, and are therefore the limiting factor. Modern amps, cdps and preamps are just not a problem. Even a little TEAC or Yamaha minisystem sounds fine if connected to a pair of good speakers. It gets a little more complicated if you're talking about record playing equipment and cartridges, because those things can be screwed up, cartridges almost as much as speakers. But, speakers vary so much in what they do, and almost all are colored and distorted in one way or another.

For those who say the listening room is even more important than the speakers, I respect that point of view, but there are some speakers that work well in real world rooms, because their designer takes real world use into account. So, I find the limiting factor in my enjoyment of music is the real source, ie, the work of the recording engineer, because my speakers work in real world rooms.
Not sure whose arguments Muralman is referring to as "absurd", but I'll respond: The original question actually does ask the question, which single component is most important in a 2-channel system. I stand by my responses; Yes, I'd agree with you that the speaker selection has the greatest potential to radically alter the sound of a system, but without a good source you will just have garbage wrapped in fancy wrapping paper...it still stinks! This is why I believe that, objectively, the source is the most important. Subjectively, well, I guess that is, by definition entirely up to the individual and their expectations, priorities and tastes. I can build a system to suit virtually any preferences around a great source component, but I cannot do the same with a specific great speaker. In the case of the latter I'd have to tailor the rest of the components specifically to suit that speaker (in many, but not all cases). A five-figure set of world-class horns are not necessarily going to sound great with whatever I put them with, and I will not be able to reconfigure my system with much latitude around those speakers. Spend the same five figures on a world-class source and you will have tremendous latitude with the other components you pair it off with. In a way, I'm agreeing with the "speaker" camp actually in that the choice of speakers will go furthest in determining the overall sound of the system, and perhaps will dictate the rest of the components. But I still would have to say that without a good source, all else falls to pieces, and this is why I stand by my original position that the source is most important. I don't know that the "weakest link" argument is entirely true in this case. I don't see it that way in this case. I think it's more like that Belafonte song: "House built on a weak foundation, it won't stand, oh no, oh no...." The source is the foundation that a system is built on...like the house, it doesn't matter how strong the components above it are, if the foundation is week it all comes tumbling down.
The Eagle has flown
The room and where the speakers are positioned.Just move your speakers around the room and hear how much the sound changes.
Taken in isolation....

No question -- it's the amp.

Clean, stable power, and plenty of it will bring any good set of speakers to life.

That said, speakers must match the room size and the listener's desire for bass. A good speaker mismatched to its room will sound lousy. I've moved four times in the past two years, and can attest to the fact that speakers that sounded wonderful in one room stink badly in another.

A pretty good cd player is not much worse than a very good one. I have owned a Meridian 508-24 and didn't find the step down to a Cambridge D500SE to be too harsh. I've also owned a decent Kenwood player and a Micromega, and the steps up the ladder weren't as profound as the dollars spent would have led me to expect.

But a mediocre amp (like my Luxman integrated) can't hold a candle to any product from Bryston, Conrad-Johnson or AR. Everything collapses unless supported by good clean power.

My order of importance:


And yes, any really crappy component will drag everything down.

If you are talking about altering the total sound of the system, speakers matter most. But if you are talking about changing one thing that will make everything sound better, amp amp amp.
It's the software dummy!
This is base on my real audiophile experience,My plan is
to balance from cd to cables to pre amp to amp to speakers
I was very confident that the speaker i bought are very
good and they are, so i did not mind spending used good
gear to feed this speakers. After careful planning and
auditiong and add my little experience in cables and gear.
I was very happy with my system, although ther will always
be a weakest link.Until my friend called me and encouraged
me to rewire my norh 6.9 with siltech, believe ir or not
I was shock for what i have discovered.Suddenly the speaakers improve immesurably of course IMHO only. This
experience taught me that start or spend good money on
the speakers, and then good descent gear, i felt that
after my speaker greatly improve from cd to speaker cable
performed to the maximum. This reminds me also when i tried
eggleston andra with my cec transport $700, msb link dac;
and plinius sa 100amp, tara lab and audio quest cable,and
adcom gfa 750, Andra $15,000k i have fairly good listening
room. This combination IMHO and my friend we both agree
this is the best sound,he heard on the andra's. Ok wait,
some of you will say whats tha point? The point is to
me i would choose the speaker first. Because of this
experience i bought use andra's.I also oredered monoblock
upgrade feom Klaus the odyssey stratos,i will use sony
sacd dvd player 9000es, with adcom preamp,might use tara
lab,or siltech.I dont know what will this system sound
but i have a good guess this will work if they synergise.
notice my source are not like the one i saw on my friend
house, He was running them with, Mark Levinson 333,meridian
508 96/24 i think, with Mark levinson preamp $6000, he
using tara lab decade all the way, this combination did
not measure up with my mid price gear, my friend and I
talk about it. He told everytime we fellowship on audio
How can my system sound better than this expensive gear,
I suspect the gear did not match his system, or my
room is %30 better than his, Even the monoblock 350 did
not sound better than my set up.Now you will ask me why
did I order the stratos, bec to my experience this speakers
only need high current amp, plus what do i have to loose
Klaus is willing to let me audition this amp I mean GRACIOUSLY
not like when i call this dealer here, He think I will never
buy gear from him. If the stratos dont work, I will use
my sa 100 plinius, or sell it and upgrade to 102.So again
like Robert Harley mention in his book complete GUIDE TO
will be able to put a very very good musical system for
less money its a good book. This to topic is also included
there, its a well balance book. I will recommend it to
every audiophile who are just starting or who are willing
to start again.I did exactly what he advise, maybe i got
lucky or maybe i did learned a lot from it.
sorry guysthis thread is too long Iam off for 3 days, so
ita time to spent couple of hours on this keybd.Thanks.
Speakers. They ultimately determine the limits and boundaries of what you hear.

Here we go again,and again,and again...arhives!! This is soooo old.
Speakers,of course.Isn't it obvious?
I used to think it was the speakers that was most important until I hooked up a mid fi CD player in the chain to my (then) Avalon Eidolons. Not good. The source is the most important. GIGO.
On the contrary that was an awful thread. Same old religious arguments, pretty much nothing learned.
For the record I think it's all important. Source, amp, speakers, all need to be matched and of equivalent performance. How many threads are there where someone is bashing B&W speakers because their $600 receiver can't drive CDM7s or N805s ? How many threads where someone hooks a new Meridian 508 to their midfi receiver and declares it to sound no better than their old Marantz/NAD CD player.
I am of the opinion that speakers are most likely to determine the sound of a two channel system. I think that this is an absolute truth. That is not to say that source and amplification components do not contribute to the overall system. They do. What I am saying is that if you changed speakers in a system, from a dynamic three way setup to an electrostatic as an example, there would be a greater difference than if you changed from a tube to a solid state amplification system or from a CD Playback source to a Turntable source.

Just my thoughts.
I pretty much agree with Paulwp and Eagle. If my house burned down tomorrow, my stereo system was fully insured, and I got to buy a whole new system in a few months, I would start by purchasing speakers and amp first.

All other components are just as important of course, but you've got to start somewhere. Speakers are generally considered the most colored component in the system-- and therefore where there is the greatest degree of personal preference involved, so they have much to do with the character of the final music presentation.

I would then choose components that complemented the amp/speaker combination, and that suited my personal music preferences. Cheers. Craig
build the rig around the speakers that you have chosen to keep for a long time.

Next to speakers the preamp is the most important component
Ears. None of this really matters without 'em. :)

Second most important is room.
No system will sound good in the wrong room I don't care what components you have.

Third - When it comes to electronics, speakers are the most important. Yes.. yes.. I know.. garbage in, garbage out but if you have a great source and garbage everywhere else, you still get garbage doncha? Speakers establish a dimension of possibility within a system - good speakers with garbage components can still sound nice (with the right cables) but... take a pair of crappy speakers and hook them up to any system you want and it ain't going to sound pretty.
Well put Bwhite.

Having great WAF
Matching the system
Ah, the chicken or the egg question. Linn was kinda the first to understand that crap in equals crap out back in the early days, also component matching. You could get a 10 source going into a 1 reciever or a 1 source going into a 10 reciever. IMHO the 10 source will make the 1 source sound like the best 1 possible where as a 1 source will always sound like a 1.
Definitely cables! ;)
1. Transducers
1.1 Acoustic/Mechanical
1.1.1 Ears
1.1.2 Speakers in Room
1.1.3 Cartridge/Microphone
1.2 Electric
1.2.1 Digital front end
(1.2.2 FM tuner)
2. Electronic Conveyors/Amplifiers
2.1 Preamplifier
2.2 Dedicated Line (and its PC)
2.3 Amplifier
2.4 Front End Interconnects
2.5 Speaker Cables
(2.6 Pre/Amp Interconnect)
3. Environmental
3.1 Vibration/Resonance/Isolation Device
3.2 Lighting
3.3 Temperature
3.4 Humidity
3.5 Thirst

This is getting out of hand, and my kid needs the computer....
Subaruguru (I own two Subarus) very good and LOL.
Back in the days when I worked at an audio shop, we used to do a little demonstration for folks, regarding the order of importance in a system. We were a Linn dealer at that time, and Linn was one of the first promoters of the source argument.

We took the customer into the reference listening room. Then we played the LP12/Ittok/Karma thru a Naim 32/250 into the cheapest set of speakers that we had in the store, which were Boston Acoustics A-40. We played an album side, and let him get a feel for the sound.

Then we took out the A-40s, and plugged on the Linn DMS Isobarik top line speakers, and also a Rega Planar 3 with a Goldring cartridge instead of the Linn TT. Played the same album side again.

Notice with one system, we used our best source(LP12) and lowest speakers(A-40). With the other system, we used our best speakers(DMS) and a moderate quality source(P3). The amps and preamp were the same in both cases.

The customer always came to the same conclusion. Even with the best speakers we had, the lower quality source made the system sound worse, than the higher quality source with bottom line speakers.

So, if you have ever done direct listening comparisons in a controlled environment, swapping speakers and sources, you would come to the same conclusion as I have. The source will get the music to the speaker, and the speaker(even a cheap one) will produce it to some degree. If the music never gets to the speaker, not even the best speaker can reproduce it. The idea that a great speaker can make up for a source that doesn't supply the needed musical information is a total fallacy.

And notice that I did not use a demonstration that used some kind of total crap for the lower quality source. A Rega P3 is a well regarded lower priced TT, and is definitely not skewing the test. It is just at a lower performance level than the LP12. The DMS Isobariks could not make up for the lack of information coming into the system from the Rega. But the little Boston Acoustics A-40s could sound better(musically) than the big DMS speakers, when fed better source information. No, the frequency extension and sonic fireworks were not the same with the A-40s, but the music sounded more musical. For people who listen to music, and not audiophile sound-effects, this is the most critical issue, musicality. I hope that this helps to clear things up in some people's minds about this issue.
I just want to add something to the speakers:

If you hire a professional acoustic engineer you can get away with spending a fraction of a branded high-end speaker price and you'll have a sound perfection for a PARTICULAR listening room. Certainly whenever you change your place the speakers might not sound right but I've seen that work wehre an engineer used the simpliest and cheapo pierless drivers widely used for DJ purposes to design an entertainment room that is now completely full with great sound and will certainly sound better if you change the source or amplification rather than upgrading the speakers so go and figure...