For $2k you should be able to secure a high quality speaker. You should consider getting a speaker that is an easy load on an amplifier and doesn't require high wattages for best sound. This will give you maximum flexibility in picking an amplifier. Ideally, you speakers should be good enough to remain in your system even after one level of upgrade on the source/electronics. As a rough guide, spend equivalent amounts on the source and speakers (in this case $2k each) and spend half that amount ($1k) on your amplifier. Great cables are expensive, but good cables are relatively cheap ($100-250). The same goes for interconnects. At this price level, it's more cost effective to go with an integrated amp which will also help you save on cable costs. There is a wide divergence of opinion on this topic and no answer is necessarily correct. Hope this helps.
Although not the best way to plan a system, I would estimate that you should spend roughly 50% of the total value of your system on your speakers. They are the single most important aspect of the listening experience. So, allotting $2000 for speakers your total system should tally about $4k-$5k (again rough estimates). I set my limit at $5k when I recently purchased a new system and built a great one. Using Audiogon and Ebay I saved well over $3000 off retail! Happy Hunting.
Ditto to the above. Bottom line: next to source material, speakers are THE most important system component. Cables and interconnects..the least. Re speakers: unless you crave exotic woods, opt for a plain finish to maximize value. If your space is average to small, a medium sized speaker system should be sufficient. Given the above criteria, there are many fine speakers available. If you're really hard up and don't mind solitary listening, medium range Grado headphones are superb and inexpensive. Finally, don't be deceived into investing large sums on wire.
I may be going in the opposite direction here but, you can get very satisfying sound out of various speakers costing 25% maybe even up to 40% less than you are ready to spend. But I have found that if you do not get a good source, you will not want to listen to your stereo for more that a couple hours a week. With a well-balanced system, you will want to listen for a couple hours a night. If you are going to go digital, which I assume you are, make sure to get a good CD player or DAC transport. You must have a good source. You will have to spend almost $1,000 here and can easily double that if you go with the DAC transport route. An inexpensive and or poor CD player will make your ears bleed and you will get tired of listening for a any length of time even with the very best amp and very best speakers. A nice front end will make an average amp and well designed speakers sound wonderful. An amp / pre amp will give you more flexibility to upgrade in the long run compared to an integrated amp but like the previous person mentioned, you will have to add more money for cables which is the next subject. Remember that cables are as important as any component. You will need cables for you speakers, between your DAC and transport if you go that route and between you amp and pre amp. Again, you don’t need to spend a ton of money, but you will need premium cables. In the used market, discounts of over 50% are common place on good to great quality gear. Good Luck!
Ditto to the last post...this would be my approach as well.
Using list prices I have what amounts to a $1500 system for the most part, so spending the same amount for each component worked for me. Rotel RCD-990 Cd Player ($1500); B&W P5 Speakers ($1500); Conrad Johnson MF2100 Amp ($1500); REL Storm III Subwoofer ($2000 in cherry, but $1500 cherry Stratus III wound be a perfect match); Conrad Johnson Motif MC-8 Preamp. (Was $2250, but the $1500 PF-2 wound great). I probably have about $1500 in cables and interconnects. The only things I did not spend $1500 on was the Tuner (Onkyo Integra) or Turntable (Rotel RP855 w/Sumiko Blue Point). My secondary system in my den/office is a $500 each system except the speakers (B&W CDM-1) Happy Shopping.
I could easily double the cost of the speaker to say the Nautilus 804's $3500 and the other components would still be fine, so the person who said spend more on speakers is a good recommendation.
I would recommend spending a good bulk of your budget on the source (as recommended earlier). My rule of thumb is garbage in, garbage out. No matter how great your speakers and electronics are, if you are feeding them with bad signal, that's what you'll end up getting. I would say spend about 40% on the front end, 30% on electronics, 25% on speakers and the rest could go to cables.
I know this may be unorthodox, but when I buy products, it is for the long haul. I buy the best piece I can afford. It also requires I fall in love with it. But, my ultimate goal is to build a long term system. I don't want to build a $3500 system, then go to work next on building a $7500 system, then... All the while keeping in mind my own tastes. Matching components synergistically to those tastes, as I believe synergy is far more important than individual components or money spent. Sure, in the beginning, the great piece will stick out. And at the end, the lower priced one will. But, as I am not blessed with the funds of some of the more lucky people here, I feel this will get me to my ultimate destination with as little wasted money as possible. Like I said, it may be unorthodox. Call me crazy, but there are always more than one path to a goal. This happens to be the one I have chosen. Good luck!
Regardless of the budget set aside for one component or the other, if in the end they don't work at least reasonably well together the money wasn't spent proportionately. Don't let the money burn a hole in your pocket. Take time to audition enough equipment to develop some sense of the level of quality you want out of a system, then compare that to what you can afford to spend. Trelja speaks wisely. There are no absolutes except that system synergy is paramount and falling in love, true love, takes time. Finding pieces you love that work together takes even more time, but it's worth it. Now, to answer the question more directly, in my case (using retail prices as some components were purchased used) the ratio was equal amounts for amp, speakers, pre-amp, source and cables/accessories (not including acoustic treatments for the room). This was completely unintentional and YMMV.
Depends on the system and speakers. With really transparent and revealing speakers (like ribbons or full range esl's) it is easy and beneficial to spend much more on an amp (preferably 2 amps) and pre. This is not only rewarding but critical in this scenario. Not saying that source, interconnects and speaker wire are not important, but matching amps/pre with certain types of speakers is the most important link and makes all the difference in the listening experience.
Trejla has a good point. I think I took for granted that most people understand that some components do not work well with others. That is one of the many benefits of Audiogon. If you cannot audition recommended equipment you can at least ask opinions and find both arguments for and against certain purchases. Auditioning is, however, the best path to follow, but not always practical. I still maintain that the speaker should be the bulk of your investment. Other components can be upgraded as money becomes available. But if you don't concern yourself with what is actually reproducing the sound, you are putting the horse in front of the proverbial cart. I wouldn't get caught up in cables and interconnects. Buy good quality and you should be happy.
One does usually put the horse in front of the cart, proverbial or otherwise. As someone who just purchased new speakers (used, 1/3 retail), speakers I love and plan to have for many years, speakers I will upgrade around, I agree with Wsmatau that it wise not to, er, put the "cart before the horse." :-))
I think you should always try to buy the best(to you) you can. And buy things you will be happy with, isn't that the point of this hobby? As a rough guide, I think you start with your likes and dislikes. Include how you listen, what you listen to, what you listen for, and so on. Next, you consider the room. Then you can think about speakers. They must match first the room, and then the amplification. This takes more thought than it may appear. I just realized that it all snowballs. Then move on to amplification. I think speakers and amplification both require you to look both up and downstream. Room and amp for the speakers. Speakers and source for the amp. Continue on with your source components. Wire is the LAST thing to worry about. There should be a synergistic match of the upstream component, wire, and downstream component. Synergistic is also subjective. Making things sound best to YOUR ears. As in the end, that is the only thing that matters. Rarely do our lives follow such meticulous blueprinting, but if I had to start from scratch, I would follow this map. Happy listening!
Put at least 1.5k + in your source.it is the most important part of your system.Do the speakers last.when you have all else in place then you have great flexibility in speakers.
Hey,the cart can go before the horse with the proper harness.As in front engine/ rear engine. Front wheel/ rear wheel drive. Trelja got THE smarts here: The right recipe,the potential up and down sides.I believe the speakers/in general should be driven by equiptment costing more. AS in more on the amp,more on the dig front end;my cabling cost more than my speakers.Not by much,as with the amp/not by much.I think in the past,I over bought on speakers,was un happy,and "knot" to smart.The speakers sounded ok till you heard better.I'm not to sure people buy "whole" systems,and live "happy-ever-after". Bose owners,excepted.This thing is ongoing.Everybody got dif.opinions and budgets;But all things being equal is where it's at fer'me.
Avguy, please amplify, if Miked spends $2k on speakers, are you really urging him to spend a similar amount on wire? I agree with you when you note that an inexpensive speaker w/ a high cost/quality amp will sound more musically satisfying than an expensive speaker mated to a cheap amp. Yet, I disagree with elevating wire to an equal status with source components or speakers. I'm particularly adamant in my position for systems costing less than $5k. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying wire is not important, especially if your system cost $20k plus -- but otherwise it's only wire.
Sorry to be so blunt, but if you have a relatively large room you can get the Maggies 1.6 ($1.5K), the Marsh A400S ($1.8K), a street DVD/CD with 24/96 output ($350), the MSB Full Nelson Link DAC ($800), and a volume control such as the MSB($400, or preferably an analog one) and have a truly audiophile system for around $5000, with true 24/96 capability ! Wire everything with Monster Cable ($200) until you can afford to upgrade the cables (north of $1K). Future upgrade: Adcom, Marsh or other good (i.e. inert) solid state linestage/pre-amp to replace the volume pot($1-1.5K),and the Sunfire self-powered subwoofer ($1.9K) for near-sonic heaven.
I guess there are many ways to achieve the same ends, and not to disrespect anyone else's opinion, but here would be my advice. Forget about formulas that tell you how to allocate your budget. Find one product which you fall in love with which gives you some of the best sound you have ever heard in a system which you have heard. Next, try to match this product with other products which mate well with the first product, but permit you to stay within budget. Those formulas are usually manufacturer or retailer attempts to justify that you purchase some expensive but poorly performing product. There really is not a high correlation between price and quality in high end audio. There are a number of inexpensive products which perform superbly, as well as many outrageously expensive products which perform either miserably or without distinction. If you use your wallet to make your decision as to what amp to get, using some formula based on what speaker you have already bought, you will be doing yourself a disservice. After appearing to overspend on speakers, you might determine that you found an inexpensive amp which mates very well with your speakers and is an exceptional performer in its price range. In this way, you can recover overspending on one product with another while still keeping yourself within budget. Of course you have to be reasonable and keep you eye on the bottom line because if you spend 80% of your budget on an amplifier, it is going to be difficult to purchase high quality companion products with only 20% of your budget. However, other than common sense budget issues, if you liberate yourself from allocation formulas, I believe you will end up with a higher quality system, but still at, or close to, budget. I also believe that you can start your search for appropriate products anywhere in the chain. It is important to assure yourself of the capability of the component. In other words, can this product completely satisfy you musically in a good system? If it is not quirky (present problems to surrounding products such as impedance mismatch, highly inefficient speakers etc.) and doesn't blow the budget, then buy it and start there. Otherwise, you might want to continue looking. Good luck.
I think we are of the same mind Rayhall. The more I think about it, the more the idea of a system price tag repulses me. Example: I am going to build a $5000 system. Is that it? Do you then look at that as a commitment, like marriage? Breakable only under extraordinary circumstance. I find very few of us in our hobby who one day announce they are going to buy a system(with a certain budget), and then go get it. People who aren't serious about the hobby do it that way. Most of our systems seem to be a living thing. Evolving and being refined over time. So I guess I go back to my original point. Buy the best thing you can, make sure you love it, and make sure of your preferences before you buy.
Thanks, Trelja. I had read your posts and I find that you and I are generally in agreement as to the approach. I would just add that with regard to the order of purchasing products there really is no required order EXCEPT wire. Here is where you can look to use the sonic characteristics of the wire utilized to complement or correct hopefully slight frequency balance problems of the previously bought products. When the rest of the system is finalized is when I would start the search for interconnects, speaker cable and power cords.
I disagree. I think the first choice should be speakers, then amp, then upstream, then cable.If you want to "voice" a system speakers have unquestionably the biggest impact. Then amps, then digital front end, then cables. When you select your speakers and your room you are voicing 75% of the system, if not more. The rest is fine tuning. The cabling is micro-tuning. Most of the tweaks are folly.
I guess, Joe, you disagree with the order in which new components should be introduced into the system. I disagree with you that you have to follow any particular order. While I agree that speakers can be most significant in "voicing" a system, my objective is to not "voice" it. I am looking for the most neutral, uncolored, cleanest sounding products I can afford. If all of them are as neutral as I can find, the less chance I will have mating them together. Even so, in the final stages of putting together such a system, I agree that you are likely to find that there are some sonic artifacts which you might want to emphasize or deemphasize. If you have left the speakers to the end, I would still buy speakers which were generally quite neutral, but with a general balance and smoothness that I would find accurate and pleasing in any system in any room. When this speaker system was integrated into my system, I would try to deal with any shortcomings via the interconnects. This method allows you at least the chance of removing one component down the road and replacing it without destroying the sound quality you had originally. If there were any problems with room interactions, I would try to tune the system by moving the speakers. Small movements can sometimes achieve huge improvements in sound. If that proved unsuccessful, I guess I would try room treatment. Also, I think that you minimize the effect of electronics on sound. Different amps and preamps can make huge differences in the frequency balance as well as quality of the sound. I would say be especially careful of the preamp (if you have one, that is). The preamp is to me the heart of the system, since it provides most of the gain (particularly if phono is the source). A bad preamp in an otherwise great system is impossible to hide. A great preamp in an otherwise bad system is still an asset to the system. And what I said about preamps is true to a lesser degree with amps, but it is still true that power amps are very important to the overall sound. As proof that you don't have to do it your way, I am finishing up a system which I started with the preamp, then the amp and am choosing the speakers last, while retaining a 12 year old CD player. I don't claim it will be the best system in the world, but I don't believe that, when fininshed, it will give up all that much to systems which are much more expensive. Anyway, to me, speakers are the weakest link in the audio chain. They are the least refined and the most erratic of any of the audio components and for any need to "voice" or compensate for any upstream deficiencies, there must be at least 3 or 4 speaker brand alternatives. What is going to make the choice for me among those alternatives if I were interested in "voicing" are things like the speaker's bass response, midrange openness and clarity, lack of upper midrange harshness etc. ie. basic speaker performance criteria.
No cliche works better. "The chain is only as strong as the weakest link". As in motorcycle chains,or your audio system. Wire is a link in more ways than the obvious one.
Great speakers with a sub-par amp/pre-amp will never give you the true potential of the speakers. Amps are "fine tuning"? Time to get off the crack pipe.
Rayhall, I fully agree with your philosophy of looking for neutrality. However, in my experience there are no "speakers which [are] generally quite neutral", even if you spend tens of thousands of dollars. I believe speakers are the most subjective decision, because they all make big mistakes, and you have the pick which mistakes are less important to you (and which virtues are most important). With regards to Jim's crude comment hinting I am using drugs ( I don't think he was referring to the Nearfield Pipedream speakers), I maintain that if you are chosing between reasonably designed solid state amps in a certain price bracket the differences between them constitute "fine tuning" a system. Actually, what I did omit was that the more revealing your speakers are, the more important that "fine tuning" will be. I would agree that with the best speakers around, the upstream decision (amp + front end) is close to 50% of the end result. But this applies only to very revealing speakers (e.g. Avalon Eidolons, SoundLabs, etc.). But in most cases speakers are easily 75% of the sound (again, if the rest of the components are reasonably good, OK ?). In fact, I believe many dealers advise you to pick speakers last because that ensures you are sucked into a never ending upgarde spiral. So there.
By the way Rayhall, I hate preamps, even good ones (I have a good one, BAT VK3i). My next move will be to get rid of it.
I agree with Joe. Jim, we are not talking about $10k speakers (or a $30k system for that matter). What we were suggesting was to buy the best affordable gear available. Good equipment can be had, while saving the bulk of the investment on speakers. Then upgrading is viable depending on the useage of the system. Joe when you sell that BAT, let me know, I'm looking for a good tube pre at that price level. Thanks.
Hi Joe, I agree, as I said previously, that speakers, certainly by the standards of electronics, are not neutral. Speakers are the most crude of all audio equipment. Yet, there are speakers, even expensive ones, which can leave your ears bleeding following an audition while others can sound COMPARITIVELY smoother, more neutral, cleaner sounding, while produce better soundstage etc. I think you might have even mentioned one which I might stay away from, if I can use my audition of the Avalon Opus as any guide to how the Avalon Eidolons might sound. (I know that the Eidolons have a big reputation and a big price tag to match, but I would rely on my own ears exclusively.) I cannot say anything about the Eidolon's but the ~$14,000 Opus was NOT impressive, in my opinion. My point was that speakers which are bright, harsh, boomy or have any easily discernable character are those which I want to avoid, even if my system is in need of a little more life, detail, immediacy etc before considering the speakers. I'll make any adjustments with the cables. Hopefully the adjustments will be small, because I have chosen neutral, clean-sounding products. I think my strategy can be followed at any reasonable price point, from budget into the tens of thousands of dollars. I think that it will lead to a higher quality system than if you just split up the money allocating it to various components on a formula basis. I believe this because, amplifiers, preamplifiers as well as speakers have quite a deal of variability within and across price ranges. If you want to get the most and best for your money, you have hunt carefully, audition multiple times with different ancillary equipment and even then, you must really make a guess, unless you are lucky to bring the equipment under audition home for a month. I guess that I feel that most of the people who just want to allocate a certain amount of money to amps, speakers, preamps etc., are unlikely to make all the determinations which are necessary to get the most within their budget, since by using those rule-of-thumb allocation formulas, they have already given up a great deal of their discretion in creating a truly excellent system. I feel that those putting a large amount of money to speakers while simply buying generic budget amplifiers/preamplifiers will almost never achieve a truly distinctive system. That is not to say that there is not some great budget equipment available, but you have to choose charefully. I disagree that speakers are 75% of the sound. The amp and preamp are much, much more important than that. By the way, wasn't crazy about the BAT VK-5I as you don't seem to be so about the VK-3I. Maybe what your intention to get rid of it says is that, despite its reputation, it doesn't live up to your standards. I find that most products that I audition, including those with the big reputations, don't live up to my standards either.
I think your poor impression of the Opus has to do with the more flabby bass control, compared to the super-tight Avalon. The Avalon in my opinion is a speaker to die for. To your other points, I just find it hard to define "neutral" when it comes to speakers since to me all speakers sound very very differently. For instance, I have a strong preference for first order crossovers or single component units, in order to maintain the time and phase coherence which you get with live sound. However, I have heard well reasoned arguments (and some not well reasoned) that time coherence is irrelevant or just not worth its compromises. I have also heard some speakers I liked which were not time coherent (by the way a sloped baffle is not sufficient). I really like the sound of good electrostats, but recognize they have serious drawbacks which can detract from the musical pleasure. The list goes on and on, speakers are very faulty in general ! Particularly when compared to the good solid state amps of nowadays, in the sub $5,000 range, which include such marvels as the Bryston 4BST and 7BST, The Marsh 200 and 400, and the Gamut. Pick any of them and you'll have fine amplification. Pick any of the good CD players from Arcam, Naim, or if you have more dough Muse, Metronome or Levinson, and you'll do great. That is, unless you want to shoot for the stars in which case you'll ned to spend a boatload (i.e. 20-50K) on each component to get them to deliver what you are paying for, not to mention have the perfect listening room. To conclude, there may be some faulty speakers that you would discard right away, but again, I'm focusing on the decisions you make once your listening has narrowed down the choices. At that point I would recommend you pick a pair of speakers and start from there, because they'll determine (together with your room) 75% of how your system will sound. Naturally you will start by trying them with the electronics that made you like them, but from then on you can experiment with different electronics and that is easier than the other way around. Just my 2 cents, anyway !
Miked, you didnt say anything about stuff you already own. Do you have ANY equipment now? The way I did it was totally backwards of how most people do it, but UNLIKE most of the suggestions in this thread, I imagine you're like most people, in that you're not going to jump blindly into this addictive hobby without any prior equipment. Had I bought a whole system when I bought my first "high end" (lol) piece, a Parasound amp to go between my Sony ES receiver and Polk speakers, I would have hated it a year later. I didnt know what I would want, the only thing I knew was that this brand or that brand was well reviewed, etc... I suggest looking at it differently, if you are, in fact, going to plunk down lots of cash up front, and you dont have an existing system to work with. Remember, gentlemen, some of us were fairly happy with the low-fi crap we had before we learned to listen INTO the music, and really hear what the high end has to offer. I would suggest that if possible, you buy some excellent speakers, and integrate them into your existing system. The quality level of your system should go up, and since you havent been "spoiled" by high end preamps and sources, you'll like what you hear. If this aint an option, and you have to get down and dirty all at once, look for a dealer that is friendly, and not pushy, and talk to him. Tell him the story. Chances are that he will have some piece of equipment that, while being switched among and between other components, will light your fire. I agree with most of what Trelja says, but I bet he, too, didnt get it perfect in his first attempt at assembling a great system, probably, you won't either, if you're like any of us. The first "set" of components, the first system that you build, that is, the first piece that you purchase from each category (source, preamp, amp, speakers), will probably not be what you have a couple of years from now. I think it takes about a year of piddling, before you learn what kind of sound you want. For me, the tube preamp is the best thing I discovered. I bought a used Conrad Johnson preamp from a buddy, and it's the best thing I've got, I may never sell it. The Speakers and Amp need to work together well. THat's a place to start. Then, the Preamp needs to be good, which almost NOONE mentioned. I'd spend equal money on preamp and speakers, then maybe at least 60% of that value on an amp, where you can get pretty good (like my old parasound) for not alot of money. Finally, the source is the tough part. I bought a Rega Planet, new, for about $650, IT is by far the least expensive component (based on retail) that I have, and my rig sounds great. TO answer your question, then, keeping in mind the strange state of affairs with the competing (barely breathing is more like it) digital formats, I would spend the money like this. Out of $10k, I'd spend 3000 on speakers, 3000 on a preamp, 2000 on an amp, 2000 on source, and the remaining 1000 on cables. I suggest, however, that you start in the shallow end, and learn where you want to go before going into the deep end without swimmies. good luck. Whaddup Trel'?!?!
Joe-Coherent: I found the Opus to have poor deep bass extension and a closed-in, but bright sound. When it was reviewed by the major mags, it was compared to the Eidolon and while they indicated the Eidolon was better, they did leave the feeling that the Opus delivered the same type of frequency balance and sonic character. I wanted to hear the Eidolon, but the salesman wouldn't even let me in that room since my budget for speakers couldn't even be pretended to stretch to that sum. I would choose many speakers over the Opus, whether they have first-order crossovers or not, at much cheaper prices, like the Vandersteen 3A Signature, Audio Physic Virgo, Vandersteen 5. I would even choose the budget, but, IMO, sonically compromised Hales Revelation 3 over the Opus. The Vandersteen 5 is the best speaker that I have personally heard. I hesitate to place any technology, such as requirement for first order crossovers before listening, as if it is one of the most significant factors in buildiing quality speaker systems, it should be instantly sonically recognizable. If it is not one of the most significant factors and I have prejudiced myself against systems without this technology, it will be very hard for me to accept a system which sounds good without it. As far as amps go, I like the Pass Aleph series and the Plinius SA-100. I haven't listened to the current Bryston's, but I have always found them too bright for my taste, but certainly a good class B amp. I would put the Pass Labs Aleph 4 and Aleph 2 significantly ahead, and the Plinius ahead of any Bryston I have heard. I have an Aleph 4. I am interested to hear the Marsh series of amps since I have heard lots of good things and they are not expensive. Among top preamps, I have heard and liked CAT SL-1 Ultimate, CAT SL-1 Signature, Audible Illusiions Modulus 3A, Ayre K-1 and K-3. I would listen to some of these before giving up on preamps. Also, you might want to check out the Hovland HP-100 and Aesthetix Callisto which supposedly compete in the ultimate preamp category. In the right systems, these can really sing. I have a CAT Ultimate and have compared it vs. going directly from my 12 year old Philips CD-80 into the Aleph 4. I definitely prefer the CAT in the system vs. going direct. Without the CAT, the system is "jumpy" and not refined. With the CAT, it is smooth and musical, dynamic with broad and deep soundstage. I think amps and preamps like these, while expensive, will significantly enhance many sound systems, working well with many speaker systems which can match with solid state electronics. I would feel comfortable mating this system with Vandersteen 5, Vandersteen 3A Signature or Gershman Acoustics RX-20 Avant Garde, for example, as the final piece of this system.
I agree with many of your speaker choices, including the Vandersteens 5 which are wonderful, although somewhat complicated to set-up (too many options). The Eidolon is ina ompletely different league than the Opus, the latter being in my view somewhat overpriced. You could probably argue the same of the Eidolon which is definitily not twice as good as the Vandersteen 5 or better than a SoundLab electrostat ! You pay for the finish and the smart sales tactics. On amps, I agree the Bryston 4B (never the 7B) may sound a little bit bright in some systems, but not so in all, and much less so once it has broken-in. The Plinius are great amps but in my opinion somewhat overhyped, I would still agree to add them to my solid state list. The Marsh is unbelievably good and my personal favorite, although it doesn't look very good. It gets you near enough to heaven. Thanks for your other recommendations.
We may not be talking $10,000 speakers, but Mike said he was going to spend $2,000. This will get you a pretty swell pair of speakers on the used market, especially if you shop patiently -- Theils, Martin Logan hybrids (or esl's), various Maggies, Vanderstein 2CE's, Dunlavy SC-IV's, Soundlabs, etc. All of these speakers will sound better with higher quality amplification. Here's the way I look at it... spend more on speakers now with lower quality amplification/source and when you upgrade speakers you'll find that amp/preamp/source combination to be even more lacking. Better speakers are more revealing of what is upstream. Guess what, now you're upgrading speakers and amp. The best upstream components you can afford will get the maximum potential of the speakers you buy now and also work better with future speaker upgrades. I prefer to buy components that I can upgrade around for a long time. For me, it's easier to simply replace speakers only. If, for some reason, there a "mismatch" down the road (highly unlikely with better quality electronics) you now have higher quality components that can be sold/traded for the comparable high quality piece that you want. The "crack pipe" remark was figurative. Sorry to offend anyone who took it literally.
Jim, when you say that the crack-pipe remark was figurative I wonder what you mean...figurative of what ? (figurative = serving as illustration) Also, I completely disagree that speakers are easier to upgrade ("For me, it's easier to simply replace speakers only"). Changing speakers frequently will likely throw your system off-balance more than changing any other component ! Now I'm wondering who's really been playing with that pipe. ;-)
Jim I think you've proven my point for me. Buying excellent speakers at the $2000 range will leave less reason for upgrading in the near future. Thereby freeing up money, allowing for upgrades in componentry later. To trade in your speakers down the road without considering doing the same for most of your other equipment seems awfully limiting to me. I recently built amy first "Hi-fi" system around one of your suggestions....The Martin Logan SL-3. I put together an excellent system(IMHO) for the same price range as Miked was looking for. After a few months of listening (and AWE factor wearing off) I realise that I have two weak links that I can upgrade as money becomes available (a dedicated CD player and I'm going to try a tube pre). I realize the value of upgrading equipment and the difference it makes , but I'm afraid I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference (and lost interest) if I had built the system the other way around. Not to mention I wouldn't have been able to afford the speakers.
Fellas, get a grip. $2,000 (and there are many fine speakers out there on the resale market for this price) will buy audio "nirvana"... for a while. This isn't about the near term, but what's best in the long term imho. We all want more later on. No??? I maintain that it's best, in the long run, to build a system from the inside out. Joe, if upgrading speakers "throws your system off" I wonder what you are using as the guts of your system??? I've purchased many amps/pre's at various price points and NEVER have they "thrown my system off". What exactly are you referring to? If your speaker are that discerning I would think that you would have a clue relative to the importance of your upstream components. I would understand trying to match a OTL amp to elctrostatics being a problem, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here. What mismatch are you talking about? Please enlighten me. Amp/speaker "mismatches" are not so common unless... well, I don't want to accused of being "crude" again. Most of us like a particular "sound" and tend to choose our components along these lines. Really high quality amps/pre-amps don't turn in to "mismatches". Low end/mid-fi stuff does -- and untimately show their weaknesses with better, more revealing speakers. And, this is what most of us aspire and migrate to eventually. Joe, you're probably the kind of guy that would buy a Lotus Esprit with the normally aspiriated 4 cylinder engine. Looks good, doesn't go. Then you have either "upgrade" or buy something more suitable. Now do you understand "figurative"? This isn't about budget -- what I am suggesting can be done on a budget. I'm just saying that 75% (as some folks have suggested) on speakers is a short term move that will cost anyone who wants MORE a whole lot more money in the long run. If long term mid-fi is OK, then I guess this doesn't apply. Anyway, my intention was to offer Mike advice for the long run. I don't know about you guys, but I've known many of us who have "matched" components for the "here and now" (and current budget -- although I still maintain that decent speakers with excellent electrontics will sound better that decent speakers with decent electronics), only to upgrade EVERYTHING when the jones hit them. Build from the inside out and you can upgrade the peripherals. That's my take. My apologies in advance for all that I've offended.
Yo G13! How've you been? Started in this hobby when I was 8(my dad gave me a junk reciever - may have even had a built in 8 track?!? and some LOUSY speakers), and still don't think I have gotten it right. Not too far away now though. That is, at least to my tastes(which others might not be enamored with). Glad we both have experienced the magic of having silver in our eyes(and ears). I think people who think they have all the answers don't know what they don't know.
Jim, once again, I believe that changing speakers frequently runs a high chance of throwing your system off-balance. Remember that the soundwaves you hear are produced by your speakers, not by any other part of the chain. I think a number of us have given you sound arguments as to why speaker choices are the most critical, and a good place to start. If you do not want to be convinced, so be it. But hopefully other newbies here will see the sense of it. And by the way, I still don't understand your use of the word "figurative", actually less so than before. Or let me give it a try: you're the kind of guy who would first select tyres and then go out and buy a car ?
If you short yourself on the front end you can spend 50k on the rest and it will still sound lousy. If you spend 2k on your front end and 5 k on speakers will it sound better than a system you spend 4 k on the front end and 3k on speakers.I am willing to bet the system with the better fron end will allways sound better. Speakers first is the biggest deception in Audio.When dealers tell you to put the biggest% here its because they make the most margin mark up on speakers.If you have 5k to spend and put 3k into speakers the dealers makes twice as much money as if you where to only spend 2k on speakers and the rest on front end and amps. To many people rush out and spend 5/10k on new speakers when spending 5k on a front end would yield better sonics with their old speakers than with the ones they just laid out a fortune for.Sorry to be so long winded. The amp amplifies and the speaker reproduces.It only makes sense that the better the input the better the output.Garbage in garbage out.Even more so as the amplification and speakers become more revealling.When you sit and voice something you want it in its best voice.So put a fortune in the front end to start and your on your way.
The discussion about how much should be spent on the various components in a system makes for interesting reading. Unfortunately, it appears that all the arguments stated thus far can be both proved and disproved. Doesn't it really depend on the components in the system? Isn't it ultimately about balance and synergy? Can those really be bought outright or are they instead achieved?
Amen, Fpeel. Synergy is THE important factor in a system. Synergy is also subjective. It means the equipment fits together in a synergistic way, to ONE's own ears. Others may think the sound is terrible... And synergy is achieved, it is not a function of money spent. Which is why some $3000 systems I have heard sounded better than some $100,000 ones
Joe,I don't think we're connecting. I am not suggesting "changing speakers frequently", just trying to build a solid foundation for a long term upgrade path. Regarding the car/tires analogy, no I would not buy the tires first. I would get a machine with a great drivetrain/suspension design and upgrade components from there. I see the amp/pre as the drivetrain. Get it right and go from there. I still don't understand throwing the system out of balance when getting better speakers. I have experienced better speakers being revealing of what's upstream and have found that good electronics sound good with almost all speakers (yes, there are exceptions but these are extreme and obvious -- like trying to drive big SoundLabs with a low power triode amp -- and not likely in real world scenarios). Nothing is forever in this hobby, and there is no "best", we all get the jones for "more" at some time. Most of us will get better components at every point in our systems before we're done (most likely when we're buried). My approach works for me and allows me to go on upgrading for a long time (read: years, and not to be confused with changing speakers frequently) before having to make major changes in the guts of the system. I guess it comes down to different strokes for different folks.
Don't get hung up on percentages. My speakers (Dunlavy SC-IVAs) are cheaper than my amp, preamp,dac or transport. I believe Dunlavy speakers give you so much for the money, that they throw off the "normal" percentages.