Speakers vs source/amp budget


I know many audiophiles advocate spending bulk of system budget on speakers with around 50 percent allocated to it. However I have noticed speakers suffer from law of diminishing return much quicker than either the amp or the source (dac, turntable). In fact I’ve noticed for bookshelf speakers especially after around $3k there is hardly much improvement except for the price tag. On the other hand the difference between $2k amp and $10k is night and day and same goes for turntables and dacs.
Am I just testing out the wrong speakers, has speaker technology come to the point there is only slight marginal improvement after certain point? The only rule for speakers seem choose the right size and sensitivity to match the amp and room size and spend the rest on quality amp and the source.
I came to this thought during my latest upgraditis run where I find myslef upgrading the source and the amp while being thoroughly satisfied with my elac vela bookshelves to the point my source and amp (naim 272/xps and 250) cost nearly 10 times the speakers! (I also own wilson audio sasha 2 for my reference system).
Ag insider logo xs@2xplaser
People convince themselves of a lot things that are not true. You are used to the speakers. Get better speakers and become accustomed to them and the Elacs will sound insufficient when you go back to them.
OP: I think you have it backwards.
Take an excellent $10k speaker and $10k amp, and an excellent $2k speaker and $2k amp.
I say much more difference in sound quality between the two speakers than between the two amps.
But it’s subjective and there are no absolutes. I won’t call you crazy for thinking that way, we just disagree
agree w kren0006 above
I am prefacing this by saying that I manufacturer very high end ($10K) stand-mount speakers and it is my opinion and worth what you paid for it.  

I spent years with a pair of Revel Performa3 M105s.  I had put together a system where everything was about the same quality.  Ayre Preamp, Rogue Amp and Marantz Reference DAC and Rega table. My feeling was that the speakers were the least expensive component, they were the next item that needed upgrading.  

I went out and tried to find speakers under $5K that were better.  I could find some that were different (Scansonic, DeVore, Acoustic Zen and Monitor Audio) all sounded different (and very good) but I wasn't convinced they were better.  Some sounded much worse but they will remain un-named.  

So I upped my budget and started looking in the $6K-$22K range.  Differentiated sound was not exactly easy to find.  I listened to some extremely expensive and underwhelming speakers.  The ones that really stood out to me had something about them that was really unique:

Boenicke - look at these speakers for a second and it is obvious they are different.  They are hard to place in a room, but are special when setup correctly.

Raidho - Tweeter is amazing.  Sound is not good it is so amazing it becomes addictive.  But, if your room is not open enough, the soundstage won't come together and they are underwhelming.  

Wilson Duette 2 - Freakin' phenomenal speaker.  Works well up against a wall and imaging is sick.  But they are $22K dollars.  Cast phenolic resin cabinets are what is special here and they are far better at damping than any wood/MDF.

Kaiser Chiara - To this day, the best sounding stand mount I have heard.  Horrible to place.  Rear firing woofer means they need 8' behind them.  Cabinet is a rubberized composite of some sort.  Not a hint of brightness from the mundorf AMT tweeter.  Totally impractical, $22K but in the right space, my god they were amazing.  

Magico S1 MK II, Wilson Sabrina - I also listened to these as small floorstanders that would take up same space and they were brilliant.  Aluminum and cast phenolic resin cabinets.  

Wilson has since introduced the Tune Tot.  I have since heard speakers from Marten which are outstanding along with Vivid and Rockport speakers. 

Basically, my POV is that if you have a wood or MDF box, you need to have an extraordinary tweeter like Raidho and mount it in a metal baffle or decouple it and mount it in metal like Vimberg.  Alternatively, you could simply ignore all throughts on speaker design like Boenicke.  Or you can use a non-traditional material to make your cabinets like aluminum, fiberglass, carbon fiber, cast phenolic resin, stone, cast iron, etc...

This is where you will see a big jump in sound quality due to the damping effect of the cabinets and where your law of diminishing returns on speakers breaks down.  I make my premium products out of fiberglass and carbon fiber.  They are expensive ($7500 -$10,000) but at least they are differentiated in terms of sound and you won't hear a small difference between a $3K speaker and one of mine.  
Ok looks like I need to up my budget to $10k+ thanks for the suggestions VerdantAudio will check them out but I'm hearing that Focal goes well with Naim so gonna check out Sopra 1 as well.
plaser,

"In fact I’ve noticed for bookshelf speakers especially after around $3k there is hardly much improvement except for the price tag."

Nothing much to argue with here. Bookshelf designs are usually compromised by size, hence often used with subs.


"On the other hand the difference between $2k amp and $10k is night and day and same goes for turntables and dacs."


A lot to argue with here.

I've long believed that DACs and amplifiers, if matched in drive and power output, sound more or less sound the same.

I didn't notice much difference between my NAD, Naim, or Creek amplifiers, although I have only ever used efficient easy to drive speakers, apart from a pair of Quad ESLs which didn't work out for me. 

Perhaps you could provide some examples of what you define as 'night and day'?


As verdantaudio said, loudspeakers are where the real gains are to be found. As there are so many different approaches and design philosophies it is really a question of giving them a listen.

"I went out and tried to find speakers under $5K that were better. I could find some that were different (Scansonic, DeVore, Acoustic Zen and Monitor Audio) all sounded different (and very good) but I wasn't convinced they were better. Some sounded much worse but they will remain un-named."


My findings too.

I also think that cabinet issues are a difficult (and often downright expensive) limitation to overcome. Therefore some of speakers I would love to hear next  would be some open baffle designs like the Linkwitz Pluto's/Orion's/LX521s.

I'd love to hear some Magnepans too, but right now there's zero indication of when the shows are going to restart. This must really be hitting the small loudspeaker firms hard.
Sopra 1s are great with Naim Gear.  Very smooth and musical.  

Since you like Wilson's you should probably hear the TuneTots if you haven't already.  I listened to them driven by Naim gear in NYC and they are a darn good sounding little speaker.  

You should try and hear the Magico A1s.  Gotta be on everyones list. 

The Raidho X-1 and XT-1 are freakin' awesome speakers, but placement is critical.  

If you are adventurous, depending on your amp, I would encourage you to check out my Blackthorn 1 (Naim or Tube) or my Nightshade 1 with SS gear that is a little brighter.  

Not sure you can find them, but the Wilson Benesch Geometry line is obscenely good.  Starts at like $8500 and goes to $50K for standmounts but they are very good sounding speakers.  

cd318, just to give you an example I used to only listen to vinyls on my Linn LP12 Akurate with radikal power supply and Naim superline/supercap phono stage because no DAC however good came close to it (previously used McIntosh D150 at $3500, Chord TT 1 at ~$4000, and Naim 272 all in one streamer/DAC/preamp for $6500ish). Then, I tried hooking up a Chord Dave ($10k) and it just blew all the other DACs away. It sounded so much (natural sounding) like the vinyls that now I do most of my listening streaming from Tidal (Auralic G1 streamer -> Chord Dave DAC -> Naim 300 power amp).
Some of the difference lies here: 2k will buy you a decent pair of minimonitors, while 10K will buy you a very good floorstander. Whereas 2k can buy you a competent 200W amp, and 10K an exceptional one. Where are you going to hear the bigger difference?
Dollars have nothing to do with this.  I thought that has been established for a long time between everyone here.  It is the parts and the design that make the sound not the amount.

Example - Nichicon capacitors versus WIMA.  V-Caps versus clarity - Shinkoh, Mills & Audio Note resistors versus others.  Plitron transformers & Chokes versus Hammond, etc.  Same foe with speakers - paper cones versus aluminum drivers, tweeter types, Alnico magnets, cabinet materials and design.  Once you understand how these things have an effect on the sound you will finally get it.  If not then you are going round and round.

I do not understand the terms being used in threads blew away - built like a tank, etc.  In what ways did one sound better than the other and what music were you listening to where you can point out the differences.  References to how the sound change is important for the rest of us to understand the differences.

Happy Listening.



Just for update, I managed to get a demo Sopra 1 for a really great price from my usual Focal/Naim authorized dealer. It definitely sounds different with the music having more weight but I wouldn’t say "better." In fact my wife when hearing these says she prefers the old setup (she has no clue what the elacs cost vs Focal). I say focals are definitely more musical and meatier sound and elacs are more forward with better timbre but not in fatiguing way but definitely less musical than the Sopra 1s. In fact I think elacs have better sound but focals are more musical and hence focals beat elacs for my purpose (mostly classical music). I’m pretty happy with the upgrade but would have been happy to with elacs but felt the need to upgrade the speakers to higher priced one given elacs cost 1/10th of the source and amp. Well this is how it is in this hobby lol.
’In fact I think elacs have better sound but focals are more musical and hence focals beat elacs for my purpose (mostly classical music). I’m pretty happy with the upgrade but would have been happy to with elacs but felt the need to upgrade the speakers to higher priced one given elacs cost 1/10th of the source and amp. Well this is how it is in this hobby lol.’


You’re right, you always have to compromises somewhere. Especially with loudspeakers.

I’m glad you think you’ve made the right ones. Just don’t tell the wife how you got there.

I do not understand the terms being used in threads blew away - built like a tank, etc.

~~~Built likea  tank~~~ ancient expression which translates =\
~~dependable/reliable/no hums/hisses/pops/a  unit you can rest assured/can count on, day in day out, year in year out, decade in decade out /
=Built like a  tank, = Not like Ford's baloney *Ford tough*. , more like Honda CRV = 1M mile car, no repairs.
Thats what we refer to as **Built like German tanks*.**
My Cayin CD17 is built likea  tank. Hopefully my Jadis Defy will prove true,,My SEAS Thors built to last forever. 17 yrs old,. perform as beautiful as the day Richard Grey soldered the xovers to the drivers.back at his shop,,
back to OP, 
Be careful with the idea the more one spends , the superior the speaker. 
Honestly I do not understand  large speaker designs. I'm puzzled.  
Bigger is not always better. Bigger might mean more ~~louder~~~ but whats that....

again back to O, IMHO
a  hewbie should start his journey with the right speaker, Speakers have to be top priority when starting a  1st class hifi system. 
Next is integrated amplification (separtes are too expensive) next is source. 
1) speakers
2) integrated amp
3)source
In that order. 
Don't even think about amplification, until the speaker is decided upon, 
btw i really hate high effiency speakers for SET amps, , = I hate SET amplification. 
Push pull is king of amplification. 
I mean taking the dsp amplified path I don’t worry about it.