Speakers First?

Top advice from Audiogoners as well as industry experts typically suggest to buy speakers first, and then build a system around them. While this can make sense to me, my pragmatic brain kicks in to try to solve questions such as......
- How can I possibly listen to all the speakers I want to and compare them against each other (the listening environments would be very different in different listening rooms - including my own eventually)?
- Assuming I find a pair, do I carry them with me for store to store to interview source equipment? (Cartoon like scenes appear in my head thinking about this)
- Does this mean that source and amplification equipment matter less?

I could go on but you get my drift. I currently have a pair of Gallo 3's that I intend to keep.......until of course I hear something I like better :)
Buying speakers first IS, I think, the best way to go about it, but I might go even further and say that it's really the speaker/amp pairing that may be the most important...that is, it's not quite like buying a source, which can be thought of pretty much independently. Some speakers, perhaps especially those that may be thought of as at least somewhat difficult to drive, may show a common preference among their owners as to what amps the owners prefer to use. What are they? You just poll them in a forum to find out. What do Maggie owners use, or Theil or B&W?...you can just poll them to get an idea. Sometimes dealers are known to come across uniquely good speaker/amp combo's that may or may not be generally known among buyers - you should always venture to pose the question to the dealer, you never know. Some speakers, during their development, were "voiced" with a known particular amplifier. And some speakers, for whatever reason, may not seem, or be known, to display any noticeable preference for an amp...which may suggest to you the speaker may either be a good value in that it may sound excellent with a wide variety of amps - or, may merely sound decent with any amp, but may not necessarily produce genuine magic with any of them - that's Your call, of course, but attempting to know the ins and outs of all that sort of thing is where direct experience comes in and, unless you talk to others who've been down a road or two on that before, you may just have to trust your own instincts...or borrow equipment. If dragging your Gallo's to a dealer is a bit much (and I think anyone could agree that it is), maybe you could arrange to bring home an amp. Talk to a dealer and ask what all may be required to make that happen (possibly some sort of deposit). Not everybody here will likely agree with me about the relative importance of speaker/amp matching, but that's my 2 cents.

Finding the right speaker among wildly varying listening circumstances may be a bit like being on the lookout for Miss Right. The most important thing is simply to give yourself an indefinite amount of time and to do a lot of looking. You will come across a lot of candidates that will have their pluses and minuses, but when you finally meet the right one you will know it! THAT'S the one you want! ;)
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You are right about the difficulty of making meaningful comparisons and hearing all the choices on the market. The best thing I ever did was to get off my duff and spend the time and money to go to a good audio show where I could audition lots of speakers in close temporal proximity. The only downside (if you can call it that) was that I quickly realized how important good speakers are and I spent at least twice as much as I thought I needed to before going to Axpona. However, the upside is that I have finally quit wondering if I can do better and just enjoy listening.
I know buying speakers first is the old school mantra, and that the amp/speaker combination is the most important thing of all. However, I would not say that finding speakers for a particular amp is crazy backwards, as Elizabeth seems to think. She loves her Maggies, Maggies require a lot of power, that is fine.

Some love single ended tube amps, which require more efficient speaker designs, there is nothing wrong with that choice either. One path is not more or less crazy than the other. I have heard systems designed from both approaches, and when the amp/speaker combo is right, they both work equally well. There are many ways to reach audio nirvana, there is not one specific road with a map.

I would go to as many stores as I could if I were you, and listen to music. Don't go with any preconceived ideas in your head, listen to all types of speaker and amplifier combinations. Take along lots of software that you are familiar with. Find the one that you like the best, then try to keep that combination together (amp and speaker).

Source can be filtered in later and is not as important as getting the amp/speaker combo right. Obviously you cannot drag your equipment all over town, but if you find a dealer that will allow you to try various sources in your own room at home, obviously this is a dealer to hold on to and support. Enjoy the ride.

+1 John, success can be had either way. My system is built around an 8 watt SET amplitier and the final system's music reproduction actually exceeded my lofty expectations. This SET does limit speaker choice, but speaker first will limit suitable amplifier selection as well( there's always some compromise to accept). I'm certain many people have found satisfaction with following one or the other route.
While I very much appreciate John and Charles thoughtful input in their posts on this forum, consider this another vote in the speaker camp. Not that amp speaker synergy shouldn't be a consideration, and the appeal of the SET sound they love is considerable. But that said, I'd at the very least tilt your total amount invested very strongly toward the speaker side. IME the speaker will have the greatest impact on your overall sound, and you will get biggest bang for your buck spending on speakers.

That said, if you do have amp preferences that should be taken into account, especially if you value the SET or OTL amp sound. Those amps will limit what speakers are good matches. But at any price point you can find speakers to match an amp preference.

Barring a mismatch, any suitable amp should give you a good idea of what a speaker is capable, even if that can be improved upon with proper component matching.
The speaker/amp combo is *hardly* the most important interface. That belongs to the speaker/room interface. Don't get that right and there is nothing you can do...