what is more important ?

Hiya ,

Just wanted some views/opinions on what is the most important piece of equipment in the reproduction of sound/music.

I know and have heard that the dimensions of the room has the biggest impact but what about the speakers, amplification, and source... which one would give the biggest sonic differences(for better or worst) if replaced ?
If my current system needs upgrading which part of the chain should I focus on first to get the best 'bang for my bucks' ?

Cheers all

This question has been debated in a number of prior threads, and as might be expected there has been no consensus. Here is one of several prior threads in which this question was discussed:


Following is my answer as stated in that thread:

Do not expect any consensus among the answers which will be provided, or among the answers that have been provided about similar questions that were asked in the past.

Some will say the source is most important, because its shortcomings cannot be compensated for by any of the downstream components. I dispute that rationale, for two reasons:

1)That logic ignores the DEGREE to which different types of components may have shortcomings.

2)The source can’t compensate for the shortcomings of the downstream components either.

Some will say the speakers, because in general they (and their interaction with the room) arguably make the biggest difference in the character of the sound that is heard.

Others will say the preamp, contending that it is "the heart of the system."

My own answer, expressed in general terms, is that a chain is as strong as its weakest link, wherever that link may happen to be located in a particular system.

And more specifically my own perspective leans in the direction of "speakers first," but to a greater or lesser degree depending on how "important" is defined (especially the degree to which price is reflected in that definition); and depending on whether the source is analog or digital; and depending on the degree to which the particular listener values deep bass extension and the ability of the system to handle recordings having particularly wide dynamic range.

Regarding the last sentence of that post, keep in mind that for a given level of quality differences in deep bass extension and maximum volume capability can dramatically affect the cost (and size) of a speaker. And the importance of deep bass extension and maximum volume capability will vary widely among different listeners.

The bottom line, IMO, is that there is no general purpose answer. The specifics of a particular system, as well as listener preferences, have to be considered on an individual basis.

-- Al
Great post, Al. How many standard deviations of degrees is that? : )
thanks for your reply... so much to consider with no real shortcuts to obtaining the best possible system, this hobby can be so enjoyable and frustrating at the same time

OP here is our advice after 30 years of professional experience.

First of all everything matters, the electronics, the source, the speakers, the room acoustics, cabling, power etc.

However, you need to first select the loudspeaker which best fits your room and personal tastes. Big room big speakers, small room small speakers, the larger the room the more bass response you need as the room size will offer less reinforcement of the lower frequencies.

Also the speakers are a piece of furniture so the look of the speakers and the amount of bass, how loud they play and overal efficiency and sonic requirements will determine the rest of the chain.

For example if you have a 101db horn speaker you don’t need a 300 watt solid state amplifier, a 10 watt tube amp or first watt type of amp will do great. also certain loudspeakers requre current so a big solid state amplifier is required.

So speakers will determine the amount and type of amplifier

Then you select the best sounding sonically compatible analog or digital source. Some dacs or CD players may use tubes and sound lush or others will bring out detail.

Then once the system is setup you will use natural devices, and speaker positioning to tune the room, and then finally adding absorbing panels for slap echo, or diffusion panels or combinations of both to help balance out the room.

In your case you must evaluate what your weak link is and tackle that first.

When I was starting bulding my first true high end system in my 20’s it was a pair of Quad ESL 63 and I didn’t have the money for better electronics, so here were a pair of $3k loudspeakers this was 1985, those same speakers are $10k now, being driven by an Aiwa mini system did the Quads sound better than the Heil AMT 1D’s loudspeakers they replaced, yes they did.

Over time came better electronics a Hafler DH 200, and an old PS Audio preamp, with an AR ES 1 table and a starter Dynevector phono cart, then came a Merrill Table with an Alphason tonearm and better cart.

It took 5 years to build that system and at the end it was matched and sounded fantastic.

The moral of the story is that good speakers are just a start, the better the electronics the more you get out of those speakers, and the better source uncovers greater detail and soundstaging.

So you have to start somewhere, so you look at your weakest link and then build out from there.

Dave owner
Audio Doctor NJ