What is proper ratio of money spent on amp/preamp/integrated vs speakers? 1:1?

Lately I'm finding more of a difference in SQ as a move up the chain in the amp/preamp/integrated market and not so much if I try to upgrade speakers.  Plus, buying and selling (and shipping) speakers is a PITA.  But having just upgraded from Devialet D200 to the dual mono D400 and loving it, it feels odd having $8000 (I'm in the used market almost exclusively) worth of power running $4000 worth of speakers, Dynaudio Contour 30's. 

I'm now wanting to upgrade again to the Expert Pro 440, but then we're taking about $10,000 and even more of a skewed ratio.
What is the proper ratio?  Thoughts?
Ag insider logo xs@2xmjmcubfn
Wow thats a tough one dude ill get back to you asap.
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Good findings. Your instincts are correct.
There are no ratios between amplifier and loudspeaker cost but it is generally agreed that amplifier performance flat lines a heck of a lot sooner than does that of loudspeakers (or turntables). Some feel that amps stop improving after around $500 (some say even lower). Unless you have efficient loudspeakers a minimum of 100 Watts should cover most bases.

Whilst the Contour 30s are good, they are far from the last word in sonic reproduction. Better speakers can easily be found, Dynaudio ones included.

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It’s Da Bronx in my neck of the woods!
I think the ratio between element costs becomes less of an issue once you get to a certain level of equipment, such as pieces that are $2k or more.  Have a $10k amp power some $2k bookshelves is not out of bounds of consideration (though the bookshelves could definitely be a weak link in the system now).  Have a $4k amp power some $500 tower speakers will definitely be a less of a good idea (though not out of bounds either).  It just depends on how you want to spend your money, but lower cost items will usually be weak links.
I look for hand me downs, and feel blessed when I run across a bargain.
Speakers are just important as the amp, matching them up is key.

I've never felt that $$$=sound. It's a very strange concept to me in regards to parts of the audio chain.

Michael Green

There is no ratio of $$ per component. It is all about component/speaker synergy. My amp/pre amp cost nearly twice as much as my speakers, but it works tremendously well.
Your question in its most basic form comes down to:
Should I spend less or more on something simply because I spent more or less on something else?

If that sounds silly, its because it is.

Buy [fill in type of component here] you love and can afford. Period.
Thanks all for the responses!  

Millercarbon - I get your point and perhaps using $$$ as the base of my question was the wrong approach.  

But I think we can all agree it would be silly to have Magicos driven by a generic Best Buy receiver or conversely Pass XS separates driving satellite speakers made of particle board. 

My query was trying to find that balance of when to upgrade what as my personal opinion is the power is making a bigger difference to my ears right now. 

Thanks again for the thoughts. 
Spend what you must to get the performance you expect with the value that suits your budget. Not every solution is for everyone. That’s why some prefer brand-new boutique gear, some prefer vintage, and some prefer waiting it out for the stars to align. Do what makes you reasonably happy. Life is too short. 
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Like @pokey77 said it’s about synergy. But yes its also stupid IMO to drive Magicos with a Best Buy receiver per @mjmcubfn. It’s a matter of what budget you have for your system and how can you build it so that it’s all of similar quality so that you don’t run really expensive sources through crummy preamps and amps and not hear how great your source is. Also you want to have speakers to match the quality of your upstream components. You want them to be able to play the quality they are being fed. There needs to be a balance. But IMO cable and power management is very important and you (if it was me, having proved it to myself) will want to spend some of the budget on quality power conditioning and the like, cables and interconnects. It make a difference and will enable you to hear the best that your system has to give. 
Much depends upon your speaker choice.  Efficient speakers can get by with less power and thus can typically require fewer dollars spent on amplification.

That said, you can get into expensive tube amps, etc with highly efficient speakers.

Many think choosing the speaker for you should then drive the amp search.  That was my path.  My 3.6 Maggies truly opened up with a pair of substantial moni block amps.

There is no secret formula or magic bean, just your ears, wallet, research and an open mind about the sound you seek.  

Good luck in your search!!
I have an ARCAM AVR550 connected to a pair of Paradigm Prestige 85F towers.  Where should I spend my money to take my sound levels to the next level?  Add a 5 channel Parasound amplifier that can output 180 watts per channel with 67 amps or buy more expensive speakers.  If I were to buy new speakers what would you suggest buying.  So far, for $6,000/pair I am yet to find anything that sounds better than the SALK Song3 Encores.  Jim Salk sells direct so he can put expensive drivers in his cabinets.  Heard a pair of $60,000 speakers at RMAF and the Salk's completely blew them away.  If anyone has not heard them be prepared to be completely blown away.  Bet they would win an blind listening test compared to speakers costing at least $20,000.  For some reason, I have not heard better amplifiers than Parasound for the money.  Sure others will disagree, but that is why I participate with this group because you are a lot more knowledgeable than I am.  I love you guys.
Around 5:1 Speakers to Amp
As ebm said, it's a tough one. In real world you have to think dollars, in addition to sound quality, unless cost is no or almost no object to you. I'll first take Elizabeth's example. Her speakers are not performing their best, to make it happen she would have to spend much more, probably double the cost of the speakers. My $1500 (20 years ago ) speakers are powered by $1500 ( 20 years ago ) integrated and they are not performing their best, though I recently added $1k active preamp to the chain and that improved the sound. Would I spend $10k on amplification for these speakers ? No. $5k ? I would consider it, but that would probably be the limit.
Point is amplification can and often should cost more than speakers, so if you really like your speakers, go right ahead but not too far.
Salk's Song3 Encores will be available to hear for a $10 admission fee
in Scottsdale Arizona Saturday June 29th 9am-4pm along with 
Spatial, Tekton, LSA, ZU, Sanders, MarkAudio-SOTA, Joseph Audio.

Really not the right way to look at it IMHO. It depends on a lot of things. I do suggest you think about your room if you haven’t already. It will make it much more speaker and tweak friendly.

I do think however maybe the real problem is that you see these all as upgrades. Sometimes it is just rock/paper / scissors with your own wallet.

What is the point? I mean, do you have an agenda, a point to get to, or are you just changing things every few months, and enjoying the excitement of the new and different?

Have you considered building something yourself for fun? :)


My golden ratio is

3 for speakers

1 for amplifiers (int or pre power combo)

1 for front end(digital player, or turntable)

1 for cables(IC, speakers and power) and power conditioner.

@elizabeth your experience may differ but mine tells me that the difference between a NAD integrated and a Naim Pre/Power combo is vanishingly small once you get over the 'obvious' idea that the Naim must be superior.

Strangely enough after this upgrade the urge dissatisfaction returns and you soon forget how much better the Naim was than the NAD - and so you climb aboard the upgrade roundabout and keep improving your amps. 

Finally, years later out of curiosity you dig out your NAD integrated and compare it to your new ££££ Naim six pack/twelve box combo and your jaw drops and it's not funny.

At the last show I went to some manufacturers were driving £10k+ speakers off MacBooks and iPhones via Wi-Fi. Have a look for yourself the next time you go.

As for the Magico's, as long they have enough power to feed them without clipping I don't think they particularly care about the cost of the amplifier. The Magico's cost is not related to the cost of the amplification required to drive them. Not in any engineering way at any rate. How could it be?

Sure you can spend more on amps if you want, that's your choice - just don't kid yourself you're getting significantly better sound just because everyone says so and every dealer implies it.

One day I intend to explore the world of Valve amplification myself - some certainly sound different from transistors (less earthbound to my ears) and I can hear it. 

How much for this? how much for that” where should the bulk of the dough be spent?

one of the more ambiguous yet fundamentally inconsequential questions that seep thru the audio past time, which has very little to do with its mechanics, yet everything to do with its philosophical meanderings.

obviously the most money should be spent in generating and keeping the best signal possible, and then maintaining its integrity thru the system ‘till it meets the speakers.

… but then that is another thread for another time.

Untill someone shows me that enormously expemnsive speakers make up for paltry sources, and amps, I will rail against the notion most of the system budget needs be placed at the signal cul de sac we refer to as speakers..

therere is a line in any application or endeavor that says ‘beyond here performance will cost exponentially more’ per increment.

IMHO the best approach is to begin anywhere, and then try to improve on what is in play.

which item gets the most attention ($$$) is up to the ower.

true too, just where that road ends is up to the one that pays the cost to be the boss.

for a rule of thumb which carries no weight what so ever, take what ever amount, and divide it into thirds… quarters if you feel wires and accessories are important, and spend accordingly on source, amp, speaker and possibly cables, racks, etc.

… once all is run in,or one is significantly bored, begin hiking the upgrade trail.

when its all done,(hahahahah), look back at the accounting and see where you ended up spending how much on what?

there’s your answer.

CD318 can’t disagree with you more.

Electronics can make or break a set of speakers.

How many loudspeakers are resold here because the electronics are not complementary or are just insufficient to derive the best sound quality out of the speakers.

We have a room full of electronics and we can go from $1000 intergrated amps from Rega, Peachtree, and Nad and compare them with the Naim Atom and others, we have the Naim Atom, the Star and the Nova, as you go up in price the sound gets considerably  better.

We have seen speakers literally come alive with the right pairing of electronics.

In one anecdote we mentioned before, we took a pair of Paradigm Person 3F a $10k speaker with Beryllium drivers to a clients house and compared them to a 10 year old set of Dali Helicon 400 at $5k set of speakers on his older Classe  integrated amp. Added a Dac, changed cables and each speaker sounded better, however the Dali's still were sounding better than the Personas in terms of bass response and midrange richness.

Then we substituted a Naim NAC 272 dac preamp with the Naim NAP 250 the Persona 3f sprang to life and sounded far better than the Classe/T+A DAC 8DSD, Bluesound, combo with the Dali Helicons.

The combined dollars to dollars were the same, the Naim drove the Paradigms to perfection and the sound was amazing were on the other combination the sound was good.

Electronics are preserving the sound.

Dave and Troy

Audio Doctor NJ


"If that sounds silly, its because it is."

I see you STILL have not learned the difference between "it's" and "its".  PLEASE look it up! 

In todays world why own speakers that are hard to drive? Hard to drive means more money all the way around and it's no longer necessary to achieve the highest levels of performance.

Marketing "money audio" with today's innovations available is a bit of a scam. I do cut some slack for panel designs but box speakers over $15,000.00 that's over board. Amps over $10,000.00 pretty nuts.

I'm so happy the table has turned and there are $200.00 amplifiers beating the heck out of the expensive amps when used on easy to drive speakers. I'm not talking about high efficiency speakers either, I'm talking about easy to drive.

Listeners are discovering this hobby anew and there's no way around it, why should there be. Simple variable systems designed to play the audio signal instead of trophy systems never really ever being able to be setup properly. And when done so, only being able to play a small portion of the musical collection most of us enjoy.

People pushing the big bucks, keep in mind the kid down the street who has built a righteous listening room voiced to the max, using a simple setup and able to play any recording they wish to the fullest cause they have the ability to tune it in.

Michael Green

Totally agree. With the right speakers who needs expensive amps? I put 100% of my audio budget into a pair of Wilson Alexandria XLF. The rest of my system consists of an iPhone 6. 
Yes Miller we use Focal Grande Utopia Em on a Fisherprice close and play with a car audio amp sounds glorious.

Who needs imaging, transparency, bass control, a smooth top end. 

Let me go drive my Ferrari engined Pinto.

You go Michaelgreen 

Hi Audiotroy

Thanks for the invite. As soon as I can make arrangements I'll bring in a few of the products you carry (have already done this with one) and give my review of them vs the products I have recently been using and publish the results.


Hi Audiotroy

I've looked on your website but haven't found your dedicated listening rooms yet. Can you send me the link to them please. What I've seen so far must be the display rooms not the auditioning rooms. thanks


Old website 

Beta site www.audiodoctor.com/wp

Hi Audiotroy

So the 4 rooms is what you have? You don't have any dedicated listening rooms?



All of our rooms are dedicated listening rooms, we also have a dedicated Home Theater room.

Our main Showroom 1: features Echo Buster Panels, Shaki Hollographs, Acoustic System Resonators, Stein Harmonizers.


Showroom 2, uses Tube traps, and Acoustic Sytem Resontors, Stein Harmonizers. None pictured behind Legacy Speakers


Showroom 3 is a starter audio room no treatements.


Showroom 4 is a dedicated Home Theater room with two live walls and two dead walls, custom absorptive and diffusive panels, walls are reinforced laminates of plywood, with mass loaded vinyl, green glue and sheetrock, custom ceiling treatments, custom floor riser with tactical transducers.


Does that suffice for you, most of the high end dealers don’t have any treatments and most rooms are just sheetrock boxes.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

Hi Audiotroy

Actually no, none of these rooms would meet our criteria for evaluating audio components.

Michael Green

@sleepwalker65 , absolutely agree with you - “Do what makes you reasonably happy. Life is too short.”

Yes Michael most stores are not 100% compromise free.

We don’t have the luxury of having a room with just one pair of speakers.

We can assure you our rooms sound very good.

We use a balance of natural acoustics and devices designed to break up standing waves as well as using passive room tuning devices such as resonators,  Tube traps, custom acoustic panels, Shakti Holographs and Stein Harmonizers which we are sure you don’t endorse, however, many people do.

Funny we didn’t see anyone at AXPONA using Michael Green audio products wonder why?

Doubly so in terms of your clamping racks want to tell Critical Mass what they are doing wrong?

It seems that their products were all over AXPONA and again nobody was using yours.

Used to use your products at SBS they were mildly effective, seems the industry has moved beyond you perhaps?

 Michael proof is in the putting, if you were such a genius at what you do your products would be everywhere.

We can end this conversation now, the market speaks loudly.

To go back to the original question about whether there is a model ratio for component costs, I would suggest that the speakers should determine the amplifier chosen. Rather than cost, the key issue is the power required to properly reproduce the kind of music you like at the volume you like, in the room in which you listen.  Simplistically, highly efficient speakers require less power than less efficient speakers. Large listening rooms generally require more power than smaller ones.  More power is a safer bet than not enough. 

And let’s not forget the impedance of the speakers. Speakers rated at 4 ohms need amps that can deliver the required power at that impedance, not at 8 ohms. Furthermore, some speakers function at an impedance as low as 2 ohms at some frequencies. Inexpensive amps may well noticeably distort at such a low impedance.  So try to match the speakers you like (and can afford) with an amp that can drive them and bring out the best in those speakers. 

With respect to those suggesting that $500 is all you need to spend for an amp or that an iPhone will suffice as a source, perhaps they would benefit from auditioning somewhat better equipment. Or maybe they listen primarily to rock at high volumes and can’t differentiate between the distortion of the electronic instruments used in the recording vs. that generated by their audio equipment. Listen to an acoustic guitar through an iPhone vs. a modestly priced DAC like a Dragonfly and I am reasonably confident they will hear more lifelike and otherwise improved sound. 

Actually Audiotroy my products were there. They weren’t there because I was marketing them either. They were there because the designers have had them for years and have been using them in their show systems all along.

Isn’t that pretty cool to see 25 year old product being used in these systems. It’s also been pretty cool to see the private audio club events asking for our toys after all these years. One of them is happening this weekend in Malaysia. Love doing the private gigs!


Audiotroy says "We don’t have the luxury of having a room with just one pair of speakers."

Tell that to your clients not me. I don’t know you from Jack. I just see what I read here.


audiotroy, you are absolutely right about many people changing speakers without first making real effort to make them sound right. Yes, not only electronics but even a single pair of cables can make or break the sound. I could easily demonstrate it to almost anyone with my system. And I am not talking junk cables.
Well, when you got $250k JM Focal Grand Utopia, perhaps you don't need another $250k to make them sing their best, but I don't really know. I just know that some use top of the line Allnic or VAC electronics with them with apparently great results.
I understand the desire for big amps - we British used to make do with 50 watt amps and laughed at the folks across the pond with their 200 watt abominations. We were still laughing when the Krell landed here UK side - then the laughing stopped.

Gradually a cultural change ensued and nowadays a 100 wpc amp is seen as a good thing - some would say 200 wpc are even better - but I think that depends upon choice of speakers. Still more power never hurts.

However it should be asked that apart from the power output of an amplifier, what other measurable differences are there? Have you seen how low the distortion stats are even in the most budget of budget amps? Magazines barley waste time printing them. And they have been that way for decades.

So what else is there? Sure there's all kinds of fancy topology out there, but  none that makes any kind of sonic difference above the threshold of hearing.

Basically you have a choice, get yourself a sufficiently powered transistor (sand) amp or delve into the esoteric world of tube/valve amplification. That's all folks!
If I give you free speakers ratio becomes infinite.
I would echo the "There is None" proper ratio response. My take is that after settling on the speakers that fit your preferences and room, the preamp is the "secret sauce" of every great system I have owned and/or been moved by. A great preamp makes a system.   
Free speakers!  That’s the solution!  And my wife would be so much happier too!
Elizabeth -

A pair of Outlaw 200wpc 2200 monoblocks can be had used for $500.  They will hang in their well into the upper reaches of amplifierphilia.
"Still, more power never hurts."
Perhaps. There are examples of higher power amps from the same manufacturer's line that just sound worse with some speakers. 
Then I think of the old Crown DC300's we used to sell, compared to the "lesser" DC150's. The 150's sounded better with every speaker we paired to.
As they say, "It depends."

An earlier comment mentioning "trophy systems" was a great phrase. It's often torture when "invited" to hear the latest trophy.

But my pet peeve is phase shift, and many fancy systems just cause too many detrimental phase interactions.
That's less dollar-related.
Long time ago, I was told that it should be half of the budget for speakers and half for everything else. I am sure it is far from solidified truth, but have had hard time not calculating it in the back of my mind.

At that time, "everything else" was a record player and an amplifier, maybe a cassette player, too. All this trickery with cables and room treatments was not on the radar quite yet. I am not saying it is not important, but it was not part of the equation when I was told the secret formula.
Free speakers! That’s the solution! And my wife would be so much happier too!

Wife happier with no speakers.Or maybe invisible speakers.
eddie,  you will get a million answers go out
spend as much money as you can   forget about it 
 you will go nuts trying to
have fun