What componant degrades the signal least/most?

There have been many threads on this website over the last several years which addressed the effects of different cables on the sound of a system.

In my mind virtually every other componant was a greater effect on, or adds it's own signature to the signal more than cable does. Every componant has connections (every connection is a loss of signal) resistors, capacitors, power supplies, boards. These things will effect an input signal more than a pair of terminations and a length of wire.

We all know that CDs and LPs are capable of sounding amazing. In the best systems they can be truly breath-taking. Most of us do not experience this at home though.

Where was that beautiful music lost? What componant contributed most to the loss of that signal?
Your speakers will always cause the most loss of clarity. It's unavoidable. They interact with everything in the room.

Your amplifier will always cause the least loss of clarity. Unless you have a really bad amp.
Speakers (and the room).
I would say speaker and listening room contributed the most of the signal loss.
The room (did you really expect something else from me?): it necessarily changes the amplitude and phase of a variety of frequencies. The degree to which it changes things and how degrading that change is depends on the room and speaker interaction. A cube shaped room would be one of the worst for amplitude change, as the deviations from a flat response would be huge. A "golden ratio" room (although I don't entirely subscribe to this theory), would give reasonable mode spacing and while it still changes amplitudes of certain frequencies it does so in a more uniform fashion (Bonello criteria). The other part is the phase--reflected sound is always out of phase (well almost always). Only an anechoic chamber can offer no phase shifts--but I don't think you would enjoy music in that environment. Phase shifts are what give us spatial cues.
Mechanical/Electrical transducers are the problem.

1. The microphones used to make the recording.
2. If you play an LP, the pickup.
3. The speakers.

IMHO These account for about 95% of the sound quality, assuming that the electronics are at least midfi stuff (Denon, Rotel, Adcom, NAD..etc.) Getting that last 5% costs all the money, and is a complete waste of time if the original recording wasn't top drawer.

PS: Really good or really bad room accoustics can play a big part even if the overall quality isn't great. I have mentioned before how good dixieland jazz sounds when played through honky horn speakers in an unfinished cellar.
Some professional performance halls have accoustic panels that can be raised and lowered so as to alter the hall accoustics to suit the particular performance format.
I'm just bringing up a point, really. Circadian rhythms and noise external to the stereo, make a night and day difference with my signal loss. More so than with any component change, but obviously these factors are my "wall", and not necessarily anyone else's.

Transducers is probably as good as answer there is.
The 120 volt wall current that the amp must shape into a signal strong enough to drive the loudspeakers.
I don't know about signal loss. But how about signal perversion?

If that's the real question, then the answer is definitely the amplifier.

The biggest wive's tale around these parts is that an amplifier simply amplifies the signal.

Of all components, the speaker is the biggest problem, hands down. I'm not including the room as a component, but if I did, it would be at the top.
Speakers, definitely.
Agree 100% with Karls and the others that said speakers, If you count the room as a component, then it's the room hands down.
I prefer to look at it in the context of a system, as opposed to an absolute. In any system, there is a group of components contributing/detracting from the sound. In that system, there is a "bottleneck" somewhere, that is doing the most damage. Even in the best systems, there is some component that is not as good as the rest. While it may seem likely that the speaker is the culprit, that may not be the case. You may have a great speaker, then what? It may lie in the preamp, or the amp, or a cable run, or, horror of horrors, even the source.

The reasons that I state this in a system context, is that no system is perfect, and to state an absolute about what component strays from perfection the most, misses the point. I am quite aware that in my system, my preamp is the bottleneck, even though it is quite a nice preamp. I can't afford to upgrade it right now, but my speakers, amp and TT clearly are better than my preamp, and when I upgrade next, that is where the money is going.

So I say that the component that degrades the signal the most is the one that is the bottleneck in YOUR system. There always is one. When you reach a point where you might have a contender for the best speaker in the world, then you really can't do any better there, and you have to look elsewhere for your problem. If/when you reach a point where all the components are state-of-the-art, then you have to look at even smaller bits to find the bottlenecks, like connectors, and power, and resistors and caps, and internal wiring, etc., to find your improvements. You can never really reach the end of "perfection" so it is a constant challenge. Maybe if the system is near perfect, then the room needs upgrading. It never ends.

I realize that this is a different angle than the others here took, but I think it is a valid way to look at it realistically.
Ohlala...at first I thought your remark about Circadian rhythms was off the wall, but on second thought I suspect there is some truth in it. However, the effect acts on your ears and brain rather than on the audio hardware. I know that my eyesight varies from day to day, and there is no reason to believe that hearing doesn't vary also.

Note also that your ears are transducers.
TWL, I realize there are going to be some gross generalizations with a question like this, but I thought it would be interesting to get the opinions of those who have given it some thought. I don't know if it is possible to get an answer as much as to get opinions.

Since I employ solid state equipment and use a big complicated Krell amp, I think my amp probably degrades the signal the most. This is due to the volume of curcuitry not a design flaw in the amp. I like the amp very much, but if I must be honest, that's where I look.

Generally speaking, speakers are fairly simple products. Most speakers have crossovers which are very simple compared to an amp, pre-amp or CDP.

For this reason, inspite of all the fingers pointed, I doubt that the speakers are as much to blame as the very complex componants previous to them in the chain. The more a signal encounters 'connections' the more it is degraded.

These generalizations are probably specific to my system. Since I doubt that there is anyone else here who has the same system, I'm not sure how much the comments are worth, but it helps the system development process to consider these things.

For me, it is helpful to take a different perspective when examining this. That way the desicion of which componant to upgrade next isn't as whimsical as the next good deal I stumble across.

For me the next purchase will probably be TT, but who knows? I would like to do some work on the room.