What made the biggest, most noticeable improvement

My musical fidelity v-dac ii broke and is being repaired under warranty but while it is away it made me think that out of all the improvements I have made to my rig since this craziness started 9 months ago, my dac made the biggest, most noticeable improvement. Every other upgrade made slight improvents here and there but my dac (with upgraded power supply, of course) gave me far better imaging, tighter more defined bass, and more micro detail. I figure the dac in my denon dvd2900 is good and that the dac in the classe ssp 25 pre-amp is good (both sound the same to me) but the musical fidelity v-dac ii with upgraded power supply just blows them away, and I figure it's out classed by many other dacs. Anyhow, besides speaker placement and speakers, what made the biggest improvement in sound quality to your rig including acoustic panels, diffusors and bass traps?
Quadraspire Sunoko Vent equipment stand. It brought under control all sorts of errant frequencies I didn't even know were so errant. It is truly wild and I'm a real cynic when it comes to most of this stuff. $5,000 for a powercord qualifies you for a lobotomy and head slap.
Tube amp, power cords, tube preamp, speakers, IC's, speaker wire and rack. $5,000.00 for a powercord does not require a lobotomy, it simply shows you're not rich enough for the big leagues. Weather it works or not is a meaningless story as long as you've got the bucks.
Equipment stand is no different from Power cord(s).
Either it will make an improvement or not...
I guess I'd mention 2 things: anything to do with cleaning up the power is most important: separate mains ring, proper connection to ground and good power cables and multi- plugs (I use Acoustic Revive RTP-4)

Secondly, a Schubert resonator like the Acoustic Revive RR77. The effect on smoothness, soundstaging and resolution never ceases to amaze me.

Most hardware on proper power supply is way better than expected and in my experience actual differences in latest generation dacs of decent quality are minor
Going back to an old loom of Mapleshade cables did it for me. I had some equipment changes since taking them out and only tried them during a layoff period from work.

First up were the ICs and the improvement was abundantly clear for the better. Swapping in the speaker wire led to an improvement as well but not as dramatic. That led to the purchase of the next level up (Helix to Double Helix) and the improvement was on par with the IC swap.

I'm starting to think that something well made but simple is probably better than a complication of a proven idea. This type of thinking can be dangerous as I now have my eye on a gaincard amp (Clones 25i) for not much coin. If it proves out to be better than my present amp, it will only further strengthen my belief that not only is simpler, when well made, better, but that cost is not equal to performance.

If this all bears out, then I'll have to write an elegy for all my hard earned cash spent chasing the audio dragon.

All the best,
Well matched amp/speaker. If I spend 5k on a power cord my wife will slap me, then the lobotomy, after securing the credit card.
Clean power..after i installed the full Isoclean (Transformers,power bars and cables) into my system.
Good power conditioners have a way of making all other changes more noticeable and more rewarding.
Moving speakers / listening chair.
Dedicated room. Allows most choices for Rok2id's suggestion.
Acoustic controls for the room made the biggest, most noticeable improvement for me.

Unfortunately with audio nearly everything seems to matter though if I were to pick a second choice it would be a tie between good grounding (earth) and dedicated power circuits for the audio room.
Question,I have a very nice sounding hifi system mastersound amps ,ART speakers Marantz CD deck.VPI turntable,Kondo cables etc I am now considering upgrading the speakers with Jensen crossovers.What in your opinion would make the most difference ,the latter or a very good Dac.Thanks Patal
Hey there, Patal! If your question is directed towards me I've got to say that there are people here way more qualified to answer than I. Just start a new thread with that exact question and you will get many, good responses! I'll go out on a limb and say that a DAC will be the better choice, but who knows, I may be wrong! If you are planning on doing both crossovers and a dac, crossovers may be the better first step, not sure though. All I know is that I can't wait to get my dac back :-)
Hi B,thanks for yoyur response,I already have aDAC and I am in a quandry whether to spend thousands on upgrading the crossovers.To be honest I am listening to the system and saying to myself how much better can this get in relation to cost.The delights of having HI Fi as a hobby ?
The BSG Qol
In what began as a very modest hi-fi, I've upgraded or auditioned much more expensive amps, sources, speakers cables, interconnects, power cords, power conditioners, stands, and speakers. Obtaining a great DAC made the biggest difference.
The biggest, most noticeable improvement? Well, lessee...

First it was the speakers
Then it was the amp
Then it was the cables
Then it was the room
Then it was the treatments
Then it was the cdp
Then it was the DAC
Then it was the preamp
Then it was the amp again
Then it was the speakers again
Then it was the DAC again...

Get the point? The point being that any component or adjustmet to the listening event carries the capacity to be perceptually the most impressive improvement encountered up to that time. I'm not saying they all do all the time; one must select well to get such a gain in a component.

IOW, it is a fruitless endeavor to seek a magical component which supposedly will confer the best gain or improvement. I have heard representatives from all of the above with the capacity to stunn in terms of improvement of a rig's sound.
Douglas Schroeder wrote:
Any component or adjustmet to the listening event carries the capacity to be perceptually the most impressive improvement encountered up to that time.
All else being equal, that can't be true. Finding a better positioning of my speakers, for example, never had the capacity to make a more impressive improvement than my DAC—ever. It's more clearly true that some components or adjustments always have the capacity (realized or not) to impress more than other components or adjustments. By the same token, the following quote from Douglas is false, too:

It is a fruitless endeavor to seek a magical component which supposedly will confer the best gain or improvement.
Since there are components that can always offer more impressive benefits than others, it makes perfect sense to search and hope for one component that will make the most difference. Furthermore, If Douglas says is true, then it would be pointless to divvy up one's budget, percentage-wise, for the various parts that make up the system. If, as Douglas says, any component has the capacity to be most impressive, then it could never matter whether you spend more money on cables than speakers, or amps than source. And yet we find nothing strange about advocating general spending guidelines for a system.


Aaron, perhaps we are speaking past each other; I was referring to genres of components, not any one system I have built. I have built dozens of systems with a high turnover of gear, so I have indeed experienced all of the components I mentioned as perceptually conferring the most impressive change at the time. Inevitably it gets usurped by another as the rigs change.

If tweaking our semantic understanding does not close the gap in our conclusions, then it's likely we will not see eye to eye on this, which is ok. :)

One of the points I was hinting at is that when it comes to perceived improvement we are creatures of the moment and that what strikes us as impressive in that moment easily takes predominance in our minds. It is difficult to state with certainty that something we were impressed by months ago was less impressive than what we were just impressed by. :)

IMO, it's playing in quicksand to discuss perceptions of efficacy of one genre of component type (i.e. DAC vs. Preamp vs. Speaker vs. cables) over another, for it's difficult to extract the one and assess it apart from the system! ;) In the development of a single rig, sure, that may be seen, but extension of the experience to all audio systems is hard to defend.

For that reason I consider it a fairly useless endeavor to try to gain consensus in regards to a component which is able to confer the biggest advantage and seek it, much less apportion the budget accordingly (Maybe it would be acceptable to do so with speakers, but little else). Get the right amp and a person is likely to say the amp can make the biggest difference. Get the right speakers and an individual may conclude the speakers are most important, etc.

As usual, YMMV and I'm not interested in arguing my experiences in it further. :)
Hi, Douglas.
I'm glad that, although I spoke directly, you didn't take offence to my questioning your ideas themselves, as I interpreted them. I'm a bit pressed for time at the moment, so I'm content not to post what would likely be a long response in attempt to sort something out. I'm assuming interested users—if there be any left—can work through the ideas themselves :)


Blimo, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Those with simple tastes can be ecstatic with a boom box. Assuming you are on the other end (never satisfied 100%), I'd offer you two paradigms that may help you weigh your investments in audio

(1) you can't hear what never gets to the speaker; conversely most of what goes wrong is in your source. So work hard at getting your source(s) right or else all else is a waste with amplified listening fatigue cutting listening sessions short.
(2) audio gear past the source is like ice cream, it has flavors and all of us have unique flavor preferences. Sample all the gear you can and home in on your favorite "flavor" first, then try to figure out in that manufacturers line what you can afford. Pay particular attention to the technology of that flavor, hopefully theres more than 1 manufacturer so that you have a range of price options other than stratospheric.
and looking at your original question, for PC digital audio in order of importance

1) a separate quality DAC (no guts, no glory)($600~$1000)
2) the John Kenny MKIII smoked the VLink I had for async USB conversion... they aren't even in the same class (~$400)
3) Jplay in xstream mode brings it to life, can't listen without it (~$80)
4)Fidelizer in extremist mode adds more focus (free)
5) JRiver Media center makes it easy to use (~$60)

my disc players are all gathering dust, can't compete with PC audio and high res downloads with the setup above.
Thanks for the info Davide! I liked your ice cream flavor analogy, that does make sense. I do agree that the source is of utmost importance. I will look into all the pc related stuff you mentioned once I come to that point in my system. I really want to figure out how to achieve better sound that what you can get from c.d.'s without going the vinyl route (which I will probably add at some point too :-))
Each part made a big difference.

My OHM Walsh speakers are perhaps the most unique designs in my system. Nothing else sounds like them, so probably those.