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Synergy between all of your criteria listed is most important. Source always tops my list as far as what to emphasize investment in (garbage in = garbage out). This subject has been beaten into the ground with a huge club on all the lists. Stick a fork in it, I think it's done! Archive searches will result in a plethora of opinions. Fact is the weakest link in the chain can potentially destroy the qualities and or limit the capacity of what the other links are yielding. Even combinations of what may be considered a "GREAT" speaker combined with a "GREAT" amp may not work well if the synergy is not there. A fantastic system can be severly compromised by the way it's set up and the room it is installed in. Beyond that such a question makes about as much sense to me as:
In getting the best taste from your pizza, list the importance of the following toppings in the order of their priority:
You'll get 1001 opinions as different as fingerprints. It all matters. None of it matters at all. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.
In my experience room placement is critical to getting the most out of your system. So I would start there. Once you've found a placement withint the room that works it can only get better with changing the other items on your list, though tweaking will be necessary with things like specific speaker plcaement once you change those. I've heard very modest systems with good placement kick the wazoo out of great systems with poor placement.
I agree that speaker choice is next, though closely tied in with placement of course.
The room is the biggest influence on your sound period. Do not be folled tinto thinking that the room isn't. It can make up 70-80% of yor sound. Just try one of the room correction devices and you will hear the differences. After the room the sound you prefer will come mainly from your speakers, just go listen to a dozen and you will notice that no two sound the same, ever! The equipment matching comes into play with the speaker you select. I also found that components in the same price range do sound similar some lean one way or the other as in detailed, lean, smoother, brighter, etc.
I will take mine with extra cheese and fried onions please.
While I understand and respect the opinions listed above, I tend to disagree...slightly. I would rank these 4,5,1,2,3. The room is hugely important, but can't be most important. The reason for this is that a great room can't make up for a lousy source and speakers, but it sure can kill great ones. You have to have a good source and speakers first, then fix the room to get good sound. Power and connection stuff is icing on the cake. Happy eats!!!
Herman, how can you say that what I ask is impossible? Come on, all things being equal, don't you give weight to some things over others?
IMHO, I would prefer a great source and front end with crappy speakers to bad source and crappy front end with great speakers.
As for the Pizza, try making a pizza without the dough first. You could probably do it, but what a mess. Plus, pepperoni is not necessary and sometimes a cheese pizza is not bad.
I would suppose the following order of priorities:
1. Quality music and recordings (garbage in, garbage out)
2. Room acoustics
3. Line conditioning
8. cabling and racking needs.(a tie)
9. Furnishings. (leather vs. clothe, etc.)
I put line conditioning above all other electronics simply because sometimes one really doesn't know exactly what they are buying until the AC noise has been properly addressed (or sometimes improperly addressed).
a. The disc or LP being played. (The ultimate limit on quality).
b. The playback equipment, disc player or turntable and pickup. (How well the disc's potential is realized).
a. Type of speaker (planar, box, etc) , and make and model.
b. Number of speakers and their placement.
c. The room in which the speakers operate.
a. Active circuitry.
b. Speaker wires (Importance depends on length required).
c. Interconnects (Importance depends on active circuitry details).
As a special case for LP's only, turntable mounting provisions may rank somewhere at the top of the list if you have a problem with vibration.
I still think that if I did an A/B test between two systems; crappy source/good speakers vs good source/crappy speakers, I could get the latter to sound better and I could hear Jax2 scream on Audiogon.
And, I bet some country, somewhere in the world, would think cockroaches on pizza is a great idea, so there!! Just think of it.....crunchy pizza. Although, you would have to figure out a way to keep your pizza from crawling away.
All things being equal speakers are the least important piece in the equation!
Speakers will never reproduce what doesn't get to them!
The room is the most important part of your system. Yes it is a part of the system!
A good system in a bad room is not going to sound good! So with that in mind is it still a good system?
2) Nothing down the line will add what the source has failed to collect from the LP/CD/SACD/Cassettte/tuner/8-track, or whatever I missed. It is not possible for the amp, pre-amp, phono stage to know what was missed at the transmission point and replace it later.
3) A good amp/pre-amp combination will loose less of the signal than a poor quality combo. These are probably the source of the greatest signal degradation. All the transistors, capacitors, power supplies, and wires are a loss of signal. Be very careful when selecting these two pieces.
4) The transmission of the signal is huge. It has been said that all cable is crap, but some is less crap than others. I read that here. I think Bob Crump was the source of the quote. Good cable will never degrade the signal as much as the amp/pre-amp combo which is why they are listed where they are. Buy the best cable you can regardless of price. I use Purist exclusively. It is obscenely expensive and worth every penny!!!
5) Speakers are important, but less so than everything listed before. They only reproduce what gets to them. The most important task of a stereo system is to maintain the signal from the source to the speakers. If the system does this well they speakers will sound good.
I am not suggesting buying 'cheap' speakers, what I am saying is that they are not more improtant than any other componant! This idea of spending a disproportionally (50%) large amount of money for them is patently absurd. Speakers reproduce only what they get, they do not add to the signal although poor quality speakers will degrade the sound.
Matchstickman - You're hearing me screaming? Man you must be one of
those underpaid audio reviewers who can hear dog whistles, and gets
annoyed if a mouse farts in the basement during their favorite passage
of Resphigi's Church Windows! I had no idea - we are not worthy (can
you see me bowing deeply at the waste just now?)!!! Everyone knows
you gotta spray the cockroach pizza's with a thick coating of RAID
before you serve em up, otherwise you gotta go running after it every
time you turn the lights on!
As to the A/B test you propose, well, lets just say a certain slogan that
Paul W. Klipsch used to use comes to mind. But I guess that the words
"sound better" are entirely subjective. Herman's spot-on
IMO, the whole concept is more than a bit odd. Why ever would you
want to create a system out of balance, investing disproportionately
more in one component and compromising another. You're investment
in the expensive component would likely be wasted, and or reveal all the
flaws of the lesser component. Balance and synergy is paramount in this
hobby, and in any "system". Also, price alone does not
dictate the quality of a component, nor that components synergy with
another in the chain of similar cost. Given that balance exists, and care
is taken to select components that work well with one and other, I'd
agree with Nrchy's comments about the importance of each of the
individual components, but, as he concludes, a disproportianate
investment in one component over the other is ridiculous.
Jax2, I merely just asked for the order of importance, in GENERAL terms. I never said anything about price or balance or holding back on this and not spending more on that. Relax.
As for Paul Klipsch, I am not familiar with any of his witty repartee.
By the way, I am underpaid, I do review the audio that I buy, I don't like mice(except with broken backs in a moustrap), and I am not familiar with Resphigi's work, either. Apparently, I need to get out more.
Matchstick - It's all that RAID on my pizza's man...I think it's doing something to me.....I just can't relax anymore!! I gotta stop with the pizza's cause it's driving me nuts. So you're one of the ones putting all those mice in traction just because they fart once in a while!! You know how expensive that kind of care is for a mouse. It's driving their insurance rates sky high and they can't handle it with their tiny mouse salaries. Maybe if you listened to Resphigi more often you could get them to hold in their farts in till those really low passages that rattle your windows. I know, you'd probably still hear them, but have a heart guy, we all fart don't we?!
I believe Nrchy was inferring that if the information is not retrieved from the source in the first place, or is distorted or colored in a specific way by the source component, nothing you can do down the line is going to alter that. The room, on the other hand will effect anything and everything you present within it's boundries. It can make or break virtually any aspect of stereophonic reproduction/illusion regardless of how great all the remainder of the components in the system are. An extreme example: Stick a well assembled $50K system in a tiled bathroom and you have pretty much wasted $50K.
PS Paul W. Klipsch's witty reparte I referred to was a button he was fond of wearing, and which he marketed as a promotional tool giveaway. It reflected his feelings about a lot of what is presented as 'fact' within the audio world. It read simply: "Bullshit"
Marco, I was all excited about the opportunity to defend my position, but I think you said everything I would have wanted to say.
Once the signal has arrived at the speaker nothing can be done to improve it. Lots can be done to prevent the room from destroying what you have worked so hard and spent so much money on for all this time.
No system will sound great in a poor quality room. As Marco mentioned, it is critical to put together both a good system and a good room. The issue I have is that it seems many people put together good and often expensive systems but set them up in a room that is not worthy of the system.
I think this is the issue often times when someone says I heard ______ speakers and they sounded like @#$%! Or I heard this amp and it sounded terrible, when someone else heard it in another room and thought it was the best.
I really don't believe there are two systems anywhere that sound the same, because they are in two different rooms. The room is critical to the sound of a good system.
Jax2, just for the record, I would love to have a pair of La Scalas, but my room is so small that my head would be inside one of them during playback. Plus, I looked up Resphigi and I am going to sample some of it. This should be good. Anyone who listens to Opera through La Scalas must know something about something.
LOL Matchstikman. When I first moved back to NYC from school I lived in an apartment the size of one of my LaScalas!!
Resphigi's Church Windows is not opera. I don't know if Resphigi ever composed any opera's, but this is symphonic music in a kind of Medievel Neo-Classical theme. There are some absolutely amazing organ passages in that piece that shake the foundation and cause the mice to fart. I have a 45 RPM direct to disk Reference Recording that is quite remarkable. If you have a vinyl rig seek out a copy. You'll have to inquire to those far more knowledgeable than I on these subjects to find a good recording on CD....does RR still exist, and are they doing CD's? This recording is of Keith Clark and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and is RR-15.
Nrchy - Sorry to have cut off your comeback. You've made some good points that I happen to agree with. I could also add that the 'room' issue is also at the root of many a good deal on Audiogon where someone doesn't give a component or system a fighting chance and either pairs it off with the wrong system, or compromises it's capacity in some other way like the room scenario. A good example of something like this would someone reading a review about a 3 watt SET amp and goes out and buys one to combine with his/her outstanding, rave-reviewed megabuck speaker that is only 88db efficient - well, you can bet you'll be seeing either the amp, the speaker or both for sale here on Audiogon once they hear them together. Yet each one of those components on their own is an expensive, well regarded component. Herman is quite correct...that's why it's called a "System". Not only will two identical systems not sound the same in different rooms, but they may not sound the same to two different sets of ears in the very same room. We all have different preferences and expectations of how a system should sound. That's why you can't measure this stuff with instruments that spit out numbers....that is only a small part of the story. The human end of that equation is entirely subjective.
I never said the room is "most important". I said I agree with Nrchy's comments about the importance of each of the components, which he prefaced with the phrase "all things being equal". I also stressed that the question is absurd if it suggests a disharmony in the stress of balancing one component with another within a system. A poor speaker can indeed bode poorly on the rest of the system, as can any weak link therein. But if you don't have the information there, or if it is distorted or colored in the first place there is absolutely nothing you can do downstream to retrieve it. Stick ANY system you like in a piss-poor room and you will have one horrible sounding system...it simply does not matter how much you spent on it, and how carefully it was put together. Put a pile of human feces (nothing crunchy about that Matchstikman!) on a pizza and no one from any part of the world is going to enjoy it much...yes, I'm sure you will find someone who would still eat it. Again, all of this goes back to Herman's point that was the very first response here, and I will paraphrase him here: What's the f*&king point.....it all matters?! I looked up the word "system" and it has about 47 different definitions in Merriam Webster. But words that come up in many are words like "organized" and "harmonious" and "interdependent". That last one is a good one. "Interdependent"
So are threads like this one (and they are numerous) meant to point out where someone should skimp if they only have a limited budget? If so, my answer to that would be to research things carefully, purchase used from reliable sources if you are comfortable with that, and choose carefully based upon how the individual components work with each other. Always try to audition with your own ears in your own space with your own system if possible. Buying used can make this workable as you can often sell gear for what you paid if it was bought at a fair price. Speakers are tough that way and because they really are quite sensitive to other parts of the system and can be more difficult to deal with, and ship, I'd say try to hear them first before buying. I'd also ask about their expectations, musical preferences, previous experiences. I cannot see recommending to anyone to spend big bucks on one single component and then compromising all the rest of the components. It would occur to me as a waste of money. If they planned on upgrading gradually it may have some merit, but then I don't know that the order of things would necessarily represent their relative "importance" to one another. Speakers are going to be very sensitive as to what you use to amplify the signal fed to them. The room is always going to have an effect on whatever you put in there for a system and perhaps the size and shape and treatments would dictate the kind of system that may work best within it. My home room is sadly lacking and probably my one weakest link and it is NOT a good weak link to have lacking, while I'm pretty happy listening in my workspace (no WAF to deal with at work). I'm no expert here and would leave comments on this to the likes of Mr. Rives.
Yes, "interdependent" really says it all.
inpepinnovations, I never said anything about using bad speakers. I said that all things being equal, or even close that speakers are the least important.
Many of these threads degenerate into foolishness because of generalizations like that. If a person is dumb enough to put poor quality speakers with their expensive electronics, they get what they deserve!
It is foolish to spend more than 20% of the cost of a system on speakers. They are not by any stretch of the imagination more important than the things in front of them.
I cannot imagine a valid arguement for putting such an emphasis on speakers!!!
Nrchy, how can speakers be the least important if "all things being equal, or even close" is the situation. Some things are more equal than others? Lets at least agree that cost is not the method to determine degree of importance. It might take 40% of the cost of a system on speakers to get an "equal" contribution from said speakers, without stating that they are more important.
Cost is often substituted for quality when making comparisons since the relative value of a product is virtually impossible to determine.
My priority when buying my current system had speakers placed at dead-last in imporatance. Great electronics with okay speakers will sound better than great speakers and okay electronics.
For the 100th time I will state that speakers will never replace what was not retrieved from the source, and then did not survive the trip down the line to the binding posts.
I think that the order of importance changes as you go up the price scale.
For a system below $1200, the speakers will be the limiting factor. (Disc player, $250, Amp,$400 Magnepan MMG, $550). Going up in cost, I would still put money into better speakers up to about $2000 in the speakers alone, at which point improved source, Disc player/phono pickup would probably get more results than better still speakers. Around $3500, the low cost (but decent) amplification would begin to be the long pole in the tent. When you get to $6000 or so, personal preferences begin to dominate, and what's most important for one person isn't for another. Room design and treatment may offer dramatic improvement, but is not an option until you are way up on the cost scale. (Lots of "Bang" but lots of "Bucks" too).
1. 5. 4. 2. 3. Everybody knows how bad a cubic room sounds, for example, and speakers ARE the hardest to get linear IN a room. The source is next. Power has slipped upward above other cables, as my experience building PCs in the past two years has proven to me, as well my experience with dedicated lines, although good ICs and speaker cables are still important to get right. Better to rank: (1+5), 4, (2+3) as they function more as groups IMO.