What component is responsible for dynamics ?

If one is looking to increase the dynamics of their system , what one component will offer the most beneficial change ?
When it comes to electronics, I have yet to hear another company that manufactures amps and preamps to compete with CAT in the context of dynamics (contrasts). And so far, the Dream State Dream Catcher is the most dynamic power cord I have heard as well. As far as which specific link in the change will affect this the greatest, there never is such a link that is the most important or contributing in any category.
all of them (IMO) but,

a reasonable approach would be to get some high efficiency full range speakers and the proper power amp.

but the answers are going to be all over the place.
Hmm.. To simplify, perhaps grossly, and to generalize, I would say power amp and turntable itself, not arm or cartridge, or cd transport. Stable current from the wall is very important too, of course.
Everything in the system, from the quality of your AC, to the size/layout of your acoustic space, can and will affect the dynamics of what you hear.
I remember reading a post many years ago on Audio Asylum where a recording engineer measured the compression of dynamic peaks in various loudspeakers, and found a strong correlation between loudspeaker efficency and preservation of dynamics. Unfortunately that post has apparently been removed so I can't post a link to it.

The system as a whole and it's synergy with each component and connection are responsible for how dynamic your system is.
I think it would be speakers efficiency first, as Duke mentioned.
And guess, who's speakers are 108 dB efficient?
It will be the amplifier,if it's tube,it's circuit design and component used.Next is sensitivity of the speaker,the higher the better.
All aspects of a system matter. It would certainly be an advantage to use high efficiency speakers with an undemanding impedance load.
It's the speaker ...

uh, the amp ...

uh, the amp and the speaker working together ...

us, and the signal strength coming from the source component ...

and of course the mastering on the vinyl/CD ...

oh yeah, and throw the preamp in there because, you know, it's in the signal chain and has gain too, unless you're running a passive and this discussion is moot to you.

Preamp, amp and speakers
The loudspeaker is the largest offender in reducing or expanding dynamic range.
Listen to some Klipschorns.
The horn component.
Then there's both macro and micro dynamics to take into account. Brute force macro dynamics are one thing, and you can find that with efficient speakers for the most part. But those micro dynamics are what truly raises a good system to great territory, and that means finesse in the entire audio chain.
The Speaker
Well , thank you for your contributions one and all .
I figured that the system as a whole would be a "total" contributing factor . Kind of like every other aspect of the sound . What I was looking for was the one that would make the biggest difference and the speaker seems like that one component . I guess that is why I posted my querry in this forum .
I do find it interesting that the efficiency of the speaker has an effect on the dynamics .

Duke and John;
You two build with two different driver designs , is there an opinion on the type of drivers that work best for dynamics ? I don't want to start a battle here , just personal opinions .

Again , thank you one and all .
amplifier(integrated or separates) in synergy with speaker considering that the placement is correct.

don't worry about tubes or solid states in the chain at all.
Agree that if you want the full range of dynamics, both macro and micro, highly efficient horn speakers are the way to go. This is one of their biggest advantages over other speaker types, and I want to emphasize that this is not just on the loud end of the spectrum, but the very soft end also.
this is a great question. the same should / could be asked about soundstage. I wish someone would answer it. There should be only one correct answer.
Rok ;
Yes one correct answer would be nice . But usually just a major consensus is the best that there is .
It depends on what you are currently using and your room. Without knowing the details, it is impossible to tell.
I think you have to start at the source. The dynamic range of a cassette tape is 90db or lower at best, whereas the dynamic range of SACD (I believe) approaches 110 db. Db's being a logarithmic scale, this is an incredible difference. If it's not at the source, good luck reproducing it down the line.
But still if I were to choose one component, I would say turntable in purely analog system and power amp in purely digital. To put aside horn speakers for the moment.
Not surprised that high efficiency speakers are top of the list of suggestions but there's more than one way to skin that cat(love being non-PC).

For speakers, you can divide the question into 3 parts; transients, bass slam and SPL (volume). The latter being more associated to allowable distortion. Oversimplified, often it is "bigger is better".
"Duke and John;
You two build with two different driver designs , is there an opinion on the type of drivers that work best for dynamics ? I don't want to start a battle here, just personal opinions."

Ha! If JohnK and I get into a battle, it'll probably be on the same side.

One thing to look at is, whether the speaker can reach the SPL you want at a relatively low fraction of its rated power. In general, most speakers have about 1 dB of thermal compression at 10% of their rated power. (Keep in mind that some recordings may have a peak-to-average ratio of 20 dB or more, implying that an 85 dB average level may have occasional instantaneous peaks of 105 dB or more.)

But headroom alone doesn't tell the whole story - in my experience at least, a higher efficiency speaker will have better dynamic contrast than a low efficiency speaker even if, on paper, they have the same max SPL capability. For example, a 97 dB speaker that can handle 20 watts will usually have better dynamic contrast than an 87 dB speaker that can handle 200 watts.

So I would give weight to both factors - how efficient the speaker is, and how much headroom it has. I think there's at least one more factor, having to do with the suspension system of the speaker, but I don't feel qualified to comment beyond that.

I agree with your answer based on my own numerous experiences.
Higher efficiency speakers do provide more dynamic contrast regardless of volume level, I really notice it at moderate and lower volumes.
This advantage always seems to make the music realistic and lifelike.It just seems to improve music`s spontaneity.
Best Regards,
Increasing music dynamic is like increasing the acceleration of a car. There are two ways to achieve the objective. Lessen the weight of the car (high efficient speakers) or increase the horsepower (amplification chain). An example of a very dynamic car would be a F1 car. A Nascar is less dynamic than a F1 but both have similar top end speed (max spl), but very different performance.
If your looking for dynamics a compression driven horn loudspeaker will do it the more horn loaded the better. But for many they are to large or costly.PA,vintage or used can save you with cost. The macro dynamic has more to do system synergy. And over all quality of the whole.
"what one component will offer the most beneficial change ?" I'd say the speaker.

From my empirical knowledge:

Doing the math, I used to think that a 10 watt amp mated with 100 db speakers would produce the same dynamics as a 100 watt amp with 90 db speaker. I mean, it's math. 2 + 3 is the same as 9 - 4. Didn't work out that way to my ears.

I had 1000 watt monoblocks driving my Maggie 3.6's (85 db). In the same room during the same time period, I had 10 SET watts driving some custom studio monitors (low 90's). No contest. The 10 wpc/90+ db was more dynamic than the 1000 wpc/85 db.

I suppose it depends on your "strict" definition of dynamics. The 1000/85 could play louder, that's what 1000 watts can do. Dynamics to me mean how fast a speaker can go from, say, 60 to 85 db. To me, a higher eff speaker does it better than a lower one.
Onemug,that`s a good example.This is what I meant by more spontaneous and instantaneous with music`s ebb and flow, much better dynamic contrast.
High efficiency horns are indeed the easy key to dynamics, but you are right - many cats in the game. I have highly inefficient Apogees and they are the most dynamic speaker I ever owned (I never owned horns though) - paired with the right amp I should add.
It's the musicians.

Listen to Takacs or Emerson String Quartets, and you will see what I mean.
Not sure what speakers you have, but if they have a sloped baffle make sure that they are properly levelled so the rake of the baffle is optimally aligned, as intended by the designer. (Speaking from personal experience, this improved dynamics for me.) Also try more severe toe-in as well.
Going back to what Jafox said, after your speakers, I've never heard gear provide dynamics in the way the CAT gear does, now I had the preamp/amp so I don't know which was responsible, or more so, but I would describe dynamics as the special quality of CAT gear, matched by few.
Saki70, You’ve put your question to the forum in a general way and received a lot of interesting answers, but I’m wondering if you are also trying to find the dynamically weak link in your system. If so, Sidssp is correct; we need to know more about your system. And then, there might actually be one identifiable component.
Sure : Reference 3A Di Capo i speakers
Primaluna Prologue II integrated amp
Granite 657 CDP

I am in a small 10ft. X 11ft. room with wall to wall carpet and 8ft. ceilings . I use some room treatments , 8th Nerve , consisting of pads in the corners and above the speakers where the walls meet the ceiling . I have the speakers and listening position set up on the diagonal with the listening position and speaker seperation set in an equal lateral triangle of 6ft . The speakers are firing staight forward , no toe in .
I play the CDP through the tube side using the stock tube.
The amp has had the tubes rolled to EH EL34's on the output and Mullard 12AX7 & Radiotechnique 12AU7 on the input . I am using a M. Wolffe Source P/C and ZSquared au/au IC's .

Hope it helps.
Individual components won't guarantee proper dynamics in a system. In order to preserve the dynamics in a recording it is essential to have a system with suitable gain structure between components. If you can't turn your volume control past the 9 o'clock position without your system getting too loud, then your gain structure is off. Similar mismatches can occur between the preamp/amp or amp/speaker. It's not as if there are perfect interfaces between components, but there are wrong ones and those will degrade your system's dynamic performance.

Regarding loudspeaker, I don't think that higher efficiency is what makes some speakers sound more dynamic, instead I think it's related to larger driver area and the amount of air that is excited. It's my observation that loudspeakers with twin 15" drivers have greater dynamic capabilities than a loudspeaker with a single 6" cone. The reasons why are obvious and if you wanted to reduce it to a simple statement -- small speakers won't sound as dynamic as larger speakers, assuming appropriate caveats.
Agree w/"Onhwy". For better dynamic capability in loudspeakers, driver Sd does matter. Such drivers tend to be of higher sensitivity and have (paradoxically)relatively shorter Xmax. At equal loudness they generally sound more open. For home audio many are be found in 2 way designs with a compression driver on top (just one example is http://lsv-achenbach.de/kits/tricolore.htm).
Saki70, The Prologue II is a nice amp but not known for its dynamics, IMO. Experimenting with tubes might get you closer to where you would like.
Without a doubt, the LP or CD recording engineer. I have not read all the responses but dynamics are determined by the source material one is listening to. That said, on the component side, speakers and amplifier determine the systems ability to reproduce great dynamics. Keep in mind that any system regardless of price can actually produce the full dynamics of the recording as long as the loudest passages are at volume levels under the maximum spl for the system as a whole.

In other words, if I am playing a Telarc CD with difference of 50 db between its lowest and loudest passage, and I set my volume level to produce about 100db on its loudest passage(which is not very loud), when the orchestra crescendo's between that soft to loud passage most systems will accurately render this. Compression of dynamics starts to occur when you near the physical limitation of the drivers.

Where a great system comes into play is producing substantially louder passages, say at 110db or even 120db, without compressing the music. This limitation is driven by the efficency of the speaker, the size of the speaker, and the amps power. That's why a small speaker, like a totem dreamcatcher, with a 4.5" woofer is limiting. Its maximum spl might only be 102db (100db without compression) which puts the floor of some orchestral passages below the ambient room db level (due to a/c units, heating ducts etc).

Unfortunately for most audiophiles, many modern recordings are now compressing music and placing all instruments and vocals at loud levels due to the prolific use of personal music systems like ipods and automobile listening. This is to compensate for high background noise levels from road noise or public spaces.
What component is responsible for dynamics ?
If one is looking to increase the dynamics of their system , what one component will offer the most beneficial change ?

Saki70, you will find your answer once you answer this question (in return): which part of your body is responsible for your good health? I.E. if you were looking to improve upon your health, which organ or part of your body would you concentrate on to get yourself in (even) better health?
Which part of the body is most responsible for dynamics?
We all know the answer, don't we?
It's brain of course.
Speakers,Preamp,Amp. HELLO!!
I side with Raya… Listen to the Reference Recordings Dick Hyman “From the Age of Swing” CD and you’ll understand why I say that.
To emphasize my point. Listen to some great source music through good headphones and you will here the full dynamic range of an orchestra as rendered by the source recording. Ultra low background noise allows you to hear the softest passages and their nuance. Since the driver is so close to the ear canal, loud passages are rendered with full dynamics and no compression. No change in Cd player will render different overall dynamics (unless that player is purposefully compressing dynamics, ipods do this).

Now, take the headphones off and increase the volume level so that you can hear the music at conversational levels with the headphones 3 ft away. The overall sound will be high pitched and AM radio sounding. Why? The sound is being compressed by the physical limitation of the drivers in the headphones. All the music, loud as well as soft passages are being played at or near the maximum spl of the headphone. This same characteristic applies to speakers. Hence the more effecient your speaker are, the louder you can drive the max spl without compression. This is also the reason that speakers with large and many drivers can give you great dynamics in a good size room. Little bookshelf speakers (without a sub) cannot, but will, if played at moderate to low volume levels.
This same characteristic applies to speakers. Hence the more effecient your speaker are, the louder you can drive the max spl without compression.
you have ASSUMED too much in your statement that the amp driving the inefficient speaker does not have the current drive capability & dynamic headroom to drive that particular inefficient speaker. That is NOT always the case - there are plenty of well-made amps that have sufficient prowess to drive inefficient speakers. They might not fit your budget (or that of most people) but that's another matter.

This is also the reason that speakers with large and many drivers can give you great dynamics in a good size room.
Again, you've assumed too much by giving a lot of speaker manuf undue credit by assuming that they know how to design a multi-driver speaker. Most do not! The audio landscape & used market is full of multi-driver loudspeakers that sound blah...
There are some multidriver loudspeakers that fit your statement but it usually the exception.....
You state a very rational explanation for the obvious advantage for high efficiency speakers. This also has been my own experience.
Best Regards,
The more sensitive the speaker the more likely the noise floor will be higher, and the softer end of the dynamic scale will more likely to be negatively affected.
Unsound I must say that has`nt been the case for me, but to each their own. What ever works best then go for it.