Up or Downstream: Which should be more resolving?

I’m going with upstream.

I have had the experience of pairing a moderately resolving upstream component (e.g., cdp) with a highly resolving downstream component (e.g., speakers) and the results were disappointing. Specifically, it resulted in the perceived “magnification” of the upstream component’s flaws. I concluded from this that pairing less resolving upstream components with more resolving downstream components tends to result in a system whose failings are primarily sins of COMMISSION.

In contrast, my experience pairing a more resolving upstream component with a less resolving downstream component resulted in sound that, while not perfect, was much easier to listen to. I concluded from this that pairing more resolving upstream components with less resolving downstream components tends to result in a system whose failings are primarily sins of OMISSION.

And now for a (admittedly hasty) generalization: Each component should be equally resolving or more resolving than the component immediately downstream from it. Or more simply:

Upstream components should be more resolving.


P.S. The question expressed in the title of this thread may seem like a variation on the perennial question “Source or Speakers: Which is more important?" but it isn’t quite the same. That question usually means either (1) Which component contributes more to the character of the sound? or (2) Which component should you choose first when assembling a system? or (3) Which component should you spend more money on? I am not asking any of those questions. And if I were, I would go with speakers for all of them, which is obviously the most DOWNSTREAM component (other than the room), illustrating the fact that the question I'm asking in this post, and my answer to it, is distinct from (1), (2), and (3). Also, I intend my question to apply to every stage of the audio chain, not just to sources and speakers.
Attention to balance or as many here will submit, synergy, seems to me as much if not more so a priority than is mere resolution, as your own words expressed early on in this post, alluding to a mismatched affair.

I see quite a fine line between utterly resolving yet critically mechanical and uninvolving, vs. highly resolving and involving. Straying from that certain ‘balance’ front to back in a system will very often overshoot the end result and allow it to wind up too much, or insufficient.

Refinement in the resolution and details of the presentation is a key aspect if one wishes to possess an expressive and entertaining system which begs to be played at longer intervals.

A starkly resolute and detailed depiction of the sound stage alone lends itself to an annoying presentation which is usually shortlived. To those ends one has but to avoid paying attention to those areas other than acquiring fine components. I’ve had and have, great items which if not set up properly will absolutely not be stand out items in general. Poor racks, sub par cabling, inattention to power conditioning ((if needed), room treatments, etc… deny or avoid paying attention to these ancillaries and one will seldom know the true voice of the sum of a systems parts or the enterprises voice as a whole, for that matter.

Certainly resolution is significant enough a talent for a component to provide, sure. It must begin up front as well… but it’s not the end all be all that each and every device in the signal chain must have as it’s paramount trait. Without nuance, honesty, naturalness, timber accuracy, dynamic expression, and an ability to recreate both drive and subtlety, an utterly resolute window to the audio venue will be too spotllit and sterile to provide emotive interest to the listener.

But that’s just me… another may well feel differently, and vow neutrality as the prime mover instead… yet it’s sheer mention begs a more visceral and heated set of arguments. Yet another will stipulate transparency the more substantial element over that of mere resolution. Albeit, each of the aforementioned are the factors of marrying resolution and details and how they are cast into the fray and then reproduced.

A single ingredient does not make a sauce. The addition of the right zest can elevate a sauce however. Of all the ingredients contained in each repast, good judgment should prevail above the desire for any singularly predominant element. Even resolution itself.
Blindjim - Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with all of them.

FWIW, I wasn't trying to suggest that resolution is of paramount or of exclusive importance in an audio system. I was more interested in hearing peoples' thoughts on whether any valid generalization can be made about whether it is more advisable to choose components with greater resolution and greater resolution as you move UPSTREAM in a system, and less advisable to choose components with greater and greater resolution as you move DOWNSTREAM in a system.

Ultimately, this consideration bears on how best to match components and improve system synergy. But as you point out, it is certainly not the only consideration when matching components or addressing system synergy.

It all begins at the begining. It can be affected downstream, attenuated, embellished, or enhanced but no loss thereafter is going to be regained.

It's always been so, and always will be so.

how the signals integrity is maintained as it moves towards the transducers and ultimately out of them into the room and to one's ears, is the real trick.

I also think it's getting easier and easier to do with some exceptions.... mini watt constructs rely more heavily on sysnergy as I understand them than do 100-150wpc & above rigs. Or so is my own exp. In every case things in fact begin up front... yet any number will contest that sentiment and collaborate with one of your initial thoughts on the item indicating it's a "speakers first" world.

Nice thread.