Your speakers ought to cost the same as the sum total of your source components. Add up the cost of your analog rig, digital source (CD player or seperates), tuner, etc. Jeff
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I think it depends a lot on what type of music you listen to, and what comprises the rest of your gear. I'm also assuming you're talking about a 2-channel setup. Total budget would affect the answer as well. As a general answer, though, if I were setting out to buy a new system today I'd spend 40-50% on the two speakers.
I am sort of baffled by the above posts, but i guess everyone has thier own way. I think you should select the rest of your equipment based on your speakers. Buy the cheapest speakers that you really like and buy appropriate electronics for them. You may not have enough money left over. But it will be less expensive to save up to buy better gear later than to replace your speakers and start over. I don't like the idea of set percentages, but unless you own a turntable, I think the speakers should be the most expensive piece.
I say it is a sliding scale depending on system total value. For $5000 system only 25% for speakers as you need to spend more money for good source CDP/Turntable. For $20,000 system or higher you may have 25% to 50% on speakers as you lready now have good source and amp/preamp and can spend more for speakers, Sam
IMHO speaker tend to be the least limiting factor in the musical chain. Think about it this way: A pair of good quality $300-500 speakers are going to sound better and better when paired with better and better electronics. Imagine a pair of Superones(not my recommendation but a good example), if you pair them with typical NAD gear(same $$ range) you will get a fairly nice sound. Maybe a little bright and not much bass, but fine. Now take those same speakers and pair them with a higher quality amp, say a bryston b-60(also not a rec, just an example), the speakers are going to come alive the bass will be defined and tight, better soundstage, gain free, and everything about the sound will come in to focus or 'come to life'. If you were to reverse the analagy: The high quality(read high dollar) speakers are not going to improve low level electronics. So, the NAD is only going to sound MORE like an NAD as you improive the quality of the speakers. That's because good quality speakers only become more transparent (which means they reveal more of what coming at them, good or bad). Good speakers (meaning anything of quality $250-60,000) will produce only what they are given(or attempt to produce what is given-although many fail because of coloration which is another discussion) and will never improve the sound signal. This is not to say that speakers do not have different, 'signature', sounds and that these signitures can mask electronic flaws, hence the need to 'match' your system. This would be the reason that the NAD owner hated his B&Ws and the Jolida owner thinks they're the best on earth. I have used only amps as examples but CD players/TT are as(if not more) important than the pre/amp. If I were forced to give a percentage I would say spend no more on speakers than on any other part, and spend equal on the CD/TT and pre/amp. There are bargins at every price point and the 'signitures' of many brands are so unique that price is of little measure of the greatness/enjoyment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you should pair $5000 electronics with $300 speakers. I am saying that speakers are not most important par of a system(dispite common belief). Anyway, I hope this helps.
My experience is not the same as yours, Mailman. When I auditioned speakers, there was a much more immediate and noticeable improvement in those over the lesser models and my old ones than by switching electronics. As a result, right now, I probably have about 50% in the speakers. That said, I am now upgrading the electronics, and will probably end up in the 30% range when done. If you're willing to buy used, amps and speakers are generally avilable at about 50% of list, and last forever ... but sources (espec TT) may be more prudent to buy new. That would certainly drive down the % that the speakers represent.
I think that your speakers and amp should be considered as a single purchase for pure synergy. That combination will run 50-60% of total system budget. In my case the retail on my speakers is $15,000 and the amp is $10,000 and my system total value is about $50,000. These numbers seem to be about right in my case. I mention the amp and speakers together because it is so important to get the part right to get the most out of your speakers. Garbage in - garbage out. Every speaker designer has voiced their speakers using some type of amp and if you find out what works best the speakers will sound their best.
I think that it really doesn't make sense to reduce the purchase of speakers to some formula. We all know that paying a little or a lot for speakers is absolutely no guarantee of quality or that you wil ultimately be happy with the purchase. I would say that you want to get the speakers which please you the most and which match the equipment you already have while still allowing you to stay within your budget. That said, this is still a very difficult task in practice, but why make it even more difficult? If your total audio budget were say $50,000, would that say that you have to buy a speaker for $15,000 $20,000 or $25,000? Why? Especially if you can find a speaker for $4000 that sounds as good or better? I agree with Eldragon that while speakers are very important, pay close attention to the preamp. That is where in many systems good sound is turned into bad. I personally don't like the idea of spending megabucks on speakers since at any price point, these are the most "flawed". And raising the price point doesn't necessariyly get you a less flawed product.
By the way, all those crazy audio allocation formulas are forwarded by those who want to take your money and therefore the formulas don't benefit YOU! These include the manufacturers, the store sales people and the magazine reviewers who all benefit by getting you to buy the most expensive, rather than the best equipment possible. It just doesn't follow that because you spent or intend to spend X number of dollars on your entire system, that some percentage of it should be spent on any particular piece of the system. As you get to know the available equipment and what works well with what, you will know on what product you need to sacrifice cost and on what product you can make up the cost overrun.