system synergy

So, the basic question is: how important is synergy between amps and preamps? In particular, how much benefit can be expected from mating amps with preamps that are in the same series? One would think that a good signal from a preamp is a good signal from a preamp, but I imagine impedance and maybe bandwidth matching might be very important. I'm not gear-head enough to say.

There is likely no general answer to this, but I do have a specific case in mind.

I have an Accuphase P-300 and an CJ Motif CR8 Pre (solid state). Both of course excellent vintage (and vintage-ish) units. But the Accuphase was designed with the C-200 preamp in mind, as it were, and the CJ Motif with the CJ Motif power amps in mind.

So, what would I likely find if I switched the Motif for a (sound) C-200 (features aside)? And likewise, what woud I find if I switched the P-300 out for a Motif Power amp (assuming proper matching with loudspeakers)?

Any experienced answers, or even educated speculations appreciated.


I have an all Ayre system and have never heard anything better...yes, more expensive, but none better...maybe not even close. I really believe that when an amp and preamp are designed by the same team, the results are better than the separate components.
"Synergy" has become an abused term, more often reflecting preference and taste than electrical compatabilty. It's actually easier to mix and match with the older gear because there used to be almost a pseudo-standard for impedance, gain and sensitivity although DC coupling could be an issue. With stuff that old, decomposition is more of an issue.

I think you have the better combination already but vintage means many things.
One obvious note is the output impedance of the pre to input impedance of the amp. Try to stay at least 10X the latter of the former.

that said I think you can assume that one company would make their own gear sound good together.

You say: "I think you have the better combination already but vintage means many things."

Might you elaborate on either or both parts of that?

And Tholt:

The rated output impedance of the CR8 is "less than 200 ohms"; the rated input impedance of the P-300 is "100 k ohms, for rated output, at the maximum level control". I assume this meets the "at least 10 times" rule? I only ask because sometimes measures, and uses of "k" for a thousand (as in the case of calories) are not uniform.
You should be good from an impedance standpoint. It's a general rule.

I don't think that system synergy is dependent at all on same-name components, it just makes the job "easier" if you elect to go all one brand. Of course, that's not half as fun as trial and error :)
I don't agree that this term has you're correcttechnical definition. It is not abused it is used accoring to a definition correctly applied in this context. (Yes It absolutely has a technical defition whose meaning involves a number of common elements to the audio jargon meaning lets not quibble over that.
That said the poster is using the term synergy meaning that some combinations of gear yeild a recognized sound that is subjectively and anectdotally better.
The classic example I know is true from one of my personal experiences is the often repeated anti-intuitive synergistic sound that a State McIntosh power amp yeilds is really quite good if you want to try a different amp with Heritage type Klipsch speakers.
System Sunergy is in my experience clearly and abundantly obvious. No fancier tool than your ears are required to detect it. Either you like the result or not if using separate components.
The example given I don't think should result in great sound and the fact that it is electrically compatible cannot prevent my thinking of an extremely warm slow resonding sound that is too much of a good thing . I have heard these pieces in different systems never together. Individually they are warm sounding together. I assume the effect is not additive if it was a good match given my preferemces but instead if synergistic able to take advantage of each components positive contribution. However I know from conjecture of the obvious but only theoretical outcome. Instead togetrher they may well work fabulously and no matter please trust your ears and like what you like not some one elses idea of liking some nonesensical belief in an objective right or wrong sound delusion..
I emphasize if you are using the term as used in the more typical way and definition in these circles. Synergy is absutely important and I stumbled upon a sysnergistic combination of equipment just happens to sound great to you and others possibly.
After nearly 3 years I have yet to hear anything that evem comes close to a purely lucky discovery of a very synergisrtic set up.
To boot it is o combination of very inexpensive for its type equipment of quipment sytem. I found that an AES AE-3 preamp and the lowish priced Consonance Opera Cbyber 800 monoblock tube power amps using my standard long time JM Lab 938 Electra speakers produces a sound that has yet to fail as amazingly good just incredibly good if used together. Just as incredibly good to me as possible and better than any I know.
BAR NONE This on the cheap dreaded Chinese amplified with only some expensive elements. I use very highly sought after tubes in it but overall you could spend the whole cost apply it to every piece to make a system and without the synergy not get this. I estimate it would cost $9 thousand for the whole system if bought new at MSRP . I bought nothing at MSRP and a mix of used.
I have heard a large number of different systems. Most much more costly that don't come close to what the synergy of these peices as assembled sound like.
In fairness some words of caution. I did not add in the rare tubes I used in the cost nor cabling or investment in power. I use a few dedicated circuits that cost plenty to get installed, the tubes are very early versions of real Sylvania Chrome Dome top getter GTs dated as 1948 production although I had bought many similiar tubes every single one had some microphonics, The early GY truly the reason for the badly misappplied nick named "Chrome Domes" . These are not the famous Ws but since this pair does not make any distracttiung noise have the imaging that's very close to the Ws. No matter what the testr results and very NOS believable every single W has mad soime noise and the lies about phono grade siulence unreall I spent way too much based on painfully ecplained Must ne quiet, given promises and recieved at least 3 pairs that left me limbless and brike never mind he insult of clearly played too a burnt crisp but perfect examples of the . Ut made me think every one is so greedy I would consider a 40 cubit Ark a certain need very soon.
I have Audience and Cardas top of the line ICs and entry level Jena Lab speaker cables none of these add significant cost despite the price a far cry from the stratoshpere prices of truly good cables too many too count of the really good ICs etc.
The Cardas were bought from a friend who bought them new and had authenticity veried by Cardas.
The Jena labs were bought new and far too costly but they were what I hoped for. I still cannot afford a second run for the second set of biinding posts or upgrade to biwire status. I am using much too expensive simple copper mutistanded Cardas jumpers with really incomprehensble brass spades coated with polished rhodium. As a rule "brass is reallly an alloy with significant lead content. WTF what a great conductor. ?
Sorry about the rant.
If i am not the only one to find this phenomena then belive me Synergy makes room treatments seem almost nothing to think about. I did not chage my room at all . The finding was so incredibly valuable I thought it was something I must have invented and not true. So I sked some seasoned Pphile fruend and even a manufactuering engineer of patented technology in a reamp and a speaker designer engineer . To come over to listen to "something" . He looked quite confused he said what hapened to your speakers . he had known my system for some time in various configurations. I said no its the opre. He said after a few more minutes of intense facial expension. And the amps of course the speakers are the same untouched. He dud a few things checking the sound of the preamp as much as he could. He announced It is this pre and it's 90% of the invention and highly praised new preamp I designed which costs about $15,000. a spontaneous holy shit this is cary good. Another friend who has a megabuck system Walker Proscenium just as a star. Said man your speakers sound really fantastic what happened they sound so much better.... No I was hearing this transformation as did others it is real.
If your space is not made of polishhided reflecting glass and is remotely deadned by furniture and carpeting etc. The key to audio happiness is having good fortune of finding synertgy it took me six years of stumbling in the dark about a million bucks of time effort cash and reasearch and only a lucky accident and my good friend Trelja helped me find itfor my taste and existing peramanent pieces. E.G. I was determined to make these speakers work out.
Again, a long way of saying trial and error. If you have a piece of equipment you want to try to stick with, then you start with that and build from there. If you get the same brand associated components it would take away the trial and error part, not necessarily if you will like the house sound.

Right now I'm toying with this stay-or-go concept with respect to my speakers -- whether to ditch them in favor of some tube-friendly more efficient ones. Cost and the unknown (ie after spending a lot of energy and money will the new system blow my mind or not....) so I've elected for now to keep the speaks (ie the 'safe' route). Therefore the amp requirements are set. But I want a tubed pre so trial and error with that. Not sure there will ever be the ultimate set up, as one agon member said "if you find something you like, appreciate it."
Thanks, Tholt.

Mechans: that's a pretty incoherent ranting ramble you just went on. But one thing. Why on Earth would you think my P-300 Motif CR* combo slow? Especially without knowing what the speakers are (Thiel CS2 2). Doesn't sound slow to me, and I used to run Naim gear, for years, so I know the contrast class to "slow"!
I think that to use the term "synergy" properly, it should be distinguished from issues of "compatibility." Compatibility involves factors which are generally much less subtle than the ones to which I would apply "synergy," and can generally be assessed via specifications (assuming meaningful specs are available).

So a preamp with high output impedance, working into a power amp with unusually low input impedance, would represent an incompatibility. So would a situation where both components have extremely high gain or sensitivity, or where both have extremely low gain or sensitivity (i.e., the volume control would wind up being used only at the very bottom or very top of its range).

System synergy, on the other hand, involves more subtle sonic effects, which generally cannot be determined from specifications, and which often (but certainly not always) cannot be explained technically. For instance, a system may have a tendency to glare or be harsh in the treble, or to handle sharp transients sloppily. That may, just to cite a hypothetical example, result from using a preamp and a source component with very wide bandwidth and an extended top end, that put a lot of high frequency energy into a power amp that can't handle it cleanly, perhaps because it uses lots of negative feedback resulting in transient intermodulation distortion.

There are innumerable other comparable kinds of sonic mismatches that can be envisioned technically, and a lot more that can be sensed sonically but aren't readily explainable technically. As was said above, using components from the same manufacturer can make it easier to avoid those kinds of bad combinations. But mixing and matching, based on listening evaluations, reading reviews, and following the experiences of others, I think can often result in better sound due to the wider range of choices.

-- Al
Well said Al! In my experience, the cabling that you use is probably going to be a huge factor in creating a synergistic system. The best components can sound lousy with the wrong cable. This is where science may not apply and you will have to trust your ears.
I am very sorry. I mean that sincerely. The post is a terrible burden to ask anyone to read and to try to undertand. I had a strong desire as it turned out a selfish one to endorse the importance of synergy.
I suffer from a chronic illness which has an occassional bad flare. My belief that if my will to overcome it, has no effect and does not alter the result. The illness has a particularly bad impact on my nervous system.
I should not have tried to write. I was stubborn determined to overcome my momentary loss of motor control using only will.
To make matters worse I am dyslexic. I am deeply aware that amongst the most problematic loss of function is typing.
Every single word I wrote was a typo. I think you will not believe it took me about 4 hours of rewriting and correcting the words each one a struggle which led to foused determination which became an excersize so frustrating and focused that my syntax became incoherent. I was able to repair only small sections of sentences every time - each attemp was trying to fix a single word.
I will not engage in discussions. If I know it is a bad day and can hold it back.
This I hope is very clear. I regret making any person considerate enough to try and understand that nonesense. Which and upon rereading the whole post which I believed conveyed something meaningful I found an unintended exposure of my failing ability and only a shameful embarrassment.

I thank you for you forbearance and forgiveness. Sincerely.

P.S. I owned an Accuphase C-200 and wanted to buy the P-300 for years. I thought the sonics of the variuos CJ amps I auditioned many times over many years to be one of the warmer SS amps I had encountered. The final thought I hoped to express but did not was, that I would think that the warmth of each I beleive they have would be additive based only on a gut sense. The whole post boiled down to the truth is that because of their a real possibility synergy that results in a sound very much to your liking may exist and is imposssible to know in advance. The intuitive thinking on my part that the two pieces would not work well may not be true at all, istead they may be synergistic and be a great combination. BTW I regret selling my C-200.
I am exhausted the above took 3 hours to write and I cannot muster the will to correct it. Please understand I won't do it again if I can resist.

Gee I'm sorry for your trouble. It must be a terrible burden you are under. I had no idea. I'm sorry if my glib and terse reply offended. I wish you all good days.

I'm still not clear, though. Exactly which combination of preamp/amp do you suppose would be slow sounding? This last post makes it seems like you mean the all CJ combo, but I'm not sure.
I can only speculate.
The amp is a relatively easy load. However, given its specs it would need a pre with a very stable output & with an as low as possible output impedance. IC would probably be shielded (unfortunately) if you live in a noisy area.

I don;t know your CJ at all. The Accu is a nice product however, keep it.
Indeed the CJ only Combination only.
I am not offended just honestly regretful. I think you are correct.