I suspect that there will be no consensus in the responses which will follow. IMO what can be said with reasonable confidence is as follows:
1)Speaker cables will assume increased importance if speaker impedance is low, and if cable length is long.
2)Analog interconnect cables will assume increased importance if the output impedance of the component driving them is high, and if cable length is long, and if the interface is unbalanced (i.e., RCA) rather than balanced (i.e., XLR).
3)IMO power cable importance can be expected to often be greater for power amplifiers and digital components than for other kinds of components.
Hope that helps. Regards,
I have to agree with Al, there is no one correct answer. Many will have their own priorities, but that doesn't mean anything to you or me, as synergy will guide you to your own personal preferences.
This question has been asked many, many times over the years with no definitive answer. Search the archives for some entertaining answers.
1. Phono Cable
Nowhere in the whole chain is the signal so small and what is lost here can't be compensated
2. Speaker Cable
There is a interaction between Amp and Speaker Chassis to control the movements of the chassis
3. Hardware to Preamp
4. Preamp to Amp
when your RCA connectors from Preamp are cheap, coated .... be happy, this will save you a lot for cables, these inferior RCA plugs normally kill the majority of the incoming information (Studio Standard, copper=100, silver is 106, gold=90, brass is somewhere 60 and there is even worse out there in "High End"...)
5. Power Cord
Try to get one with top connectors (grip), Oyaide for example
When Nordost came out with the Norse Series 2 cables I was lucky enough to get a demo case for an in home demo. My Ic's and Sc's were original Frey's. I always thought the Ic would make the biggest difference. So what I did was swap out the Ic only with the series2 Frey. Noticed the improvement. Put the original Ic back in and swapped out the Sc for the series2 Frey. I noticed a bigger improvement. So for grins I put the original Sc back in and swapped out the original Frey Ic with the Tyr2. To me it sounded just a hair better than the Frey2 Sc. I then later played with different combinations but came to the conclusion (at least in my case) the Sc made the biggest difference.
That said I never tried different brands. I did play with the Pc's a bit but compared to my Fusion Audio's I didn't hear that much of a difference but I was more interested in Ic's and Sc's. In the end I upgraded my Ic from the original Frey to the Tyr2.
Well that was my experience.
I suggest cleaning up your power. An industrial isolation transformer makes a difference, but it growls, and should be outside the music room. Almarg has good advice too, but I would add that capacitance and dielectric absorption are your big enemies in line level cables, while inductance is your big enemy in speaker cables.
AC power cables first IF you have dedicated/treated AC runs.
I have a dedicated run to my room (20A) feeding two MIT AC digital rectification outlets, then to a QB8 Quantum power strip and Echole AC cables - the best tweak and the best invested cash I have performed in my system.
"a chain is only as good as it's weakest link". It's probably safe to assume your ac power supply is poor-and since you haven't mentioned any I assume you have no power conditioning or isolation of digital. Without clean(er)ac power it's hard to evaluate the potential of your system. My suggestion is first buy conditioning. Next move would be the power cords to preamp and digital, hopefully with isolation value.. Then ic from digital to pre. Then ic from pre to amp. Only experimenting and listening will tell you the best bang for the investment.
flg2001, according to your statement, AC cables are NOT important in apartment building because you can't install dedicated line for your music rig.
In 16 years of time I have done thousends of tests with cables. For me it is a lot of fun to do.
With the newest and best cables I even think powercables can make a bigger difference than loudspeakercables.
In the past I said: loudspeakercables will be the most important.
The tests I have done with the Purist Audio Limites Edition are stunning.
For example: test with a Wadia 7si of a client. He had a heavensgate powercable of about 2000 euro. The limited is about twice this price. At my home the difference was extreme. We are not talking about 20% better. But far more than 50%. The dynamics were superior, the mid freq. was so much more open and involving. The highs were a lot opener and the stage was bigger and wider. The individual focus of instruments and voices went to a different and a much higher level. The difference in blacks was stunning. I never heard a loudspeakercable doing this level for improvements.
About a week ago I visited his home. We did many different tests. Between interconnects and powercables. ( conditioners) When we connected the Purist Limited Edition. The difference between the interconnects was a lot bigger than with the heavensgate powercable.
I knew this from many other tests I did in the past. Powercables of high quality can make a huge improvement.
Another example: I owned the Pass Labs XA100.5 monoblocks. I used them with Purist Audio Aqueous powercables.
Later I owned the X-250.5 with the Limited Edition powercable. Overal I had a better end result compared to the XA100.5 with the Aqueous.
What was better?: More control, more drive. Better blacks and more decay and resolution. Also the articulation of voices is better with the X250.5 and Limited Edition.
Here you see: hearing is believing. That is why I love blindtests. The sound ( outcome) is what you hear and what counts most. It is that simple!
* It depends on the situation and cables. In general I think loudspreakercables will have the biggest improvement.
I also recommend starting with a power conditioner; even if you have a dedicated AC line. The noise level will be lowered and you will hear the true sound of your system, the sound will be more open and soundstaging improved.
Power cables are important as well, but once you've lowered the noise floor, then you can make educated choices on the next cables to upgrade. IMO, upgrading interconnects will help influence the timbre or color of the system.
My simple experience of a major improvement is similar to that of Lowrider57, with a Mapleshade Records Power Strip/Conditioner plugged into an AC wall outlet (this is not current limiting) together with a Machina Dynamica "Flying Saucer (RFI/EMI blocker) for AC outlet" plugged into the adjacent remaining AC outlet, as well as into a number of other unused AC outlets throughout listening room.
Easy to hear wonderful system wide improvement.
Modest cost with big benefit.
In 16 years of time I have also tested many conditioners. Like amps, cables, speakers and sources there is more shit on the market than exeptional good stuff.
I use a powersource+. This conditioner is superior to any PS Audio product. It increases the dynamics, drive and all layers of the lowest freq. Even if you put cables like the Purist Audio Limited Edition to the conditioner, it works better than direct to the wahl.
The difference in the mid freq, are stunning. It has much more flavors and is more open in the mid freq.
In the high freq. there are more details and there is more decay. So you get a wider and deeper stage. I Always say: The right and left corner behind the speakers go deeper.
Another difference is the extra authority. ( less noise)
And the blacks are better as well so you get a more touchable image.
Last we week we compared interconnects from MIT and Audioquest. The silver interconnects from Audioquest are superior to all the copper MIT interconnects. Why?
Because silver gives you more resolution and a wider and deeper image compared to the copper interconnects. Silver is very important for the absolute sound. I have said this before. I had this discussion with a person who distributes Transparent overhere.
The individual focus of instruments and voices is superior with the Audioquest against the MIT. The New Wild Blue Yonder with there new improved plugs even let you hear the difference in hight of percussion. Going back to MIT, it is gone. And even the sharpness of the individual focus is inferior. The only small advantage of the copper is that the mid freq. are a little more involving.