For me, it was a tie, all at around $1500 apiece:
Speakers (Klipsch La Scala professionals)
Front Amps (KT88 monoblocks - Rogue M120)
Power Conditioner (Tice 3C-HP)
I focused on the power plant... I'm mainly into hard
rock, heavy metal, space rock (Hawkwind et al) and dub.
It's a sweet sounding, high-power tube/horn rig with
tons of headroom and dynamic slam.
records and cd's absorb about 3/4ths of the money i spend in this hobby. speakers & amps, preamp, cd player, turntable/arm/cartridge, in that order consume the rest. cost of components were about the same for each. very very little spent on tweaks, other than speaker cable and interconnect.
My most expensive component is my turntable (an old entry level Linn LP12). I got it because I was sold, er, convinced that Linn's source first thinking was the way to go. (The pretty wood LP12 base helped a bit, too.) I think source first does have a lot going for it with record playing systems, not so much for CD systems if for no other reason than CD players are hot today, door stops in the morning.
Today, my philosophy is that a lot depends on the user and his or her needs.
For me, the biggest expenditure was for the speakers. The power amps are next at about 70-80% of the speaker costs. Following that is the speaker wire at about 50% of the power amps. Following that are the DAC set-up and the pre-amp at about the same cost and at about 65% of the speaker cable. Note that I really "needed" that speaker cable for a previous set-up and I kept it in the one I have now. My analog system is used and nice but not fantastic. My power regenerator is pretty good. My cables overall are OK but not fantastic. My CD player is good but not fantastic. My next steps are to look at cables and pre-amp. My lowest priority, but something I will get to, are power cables -- right now, I've got good but not great pc's. Good question -- I look forward to seeing other responses.
P.S. Someday, I also hope to really dig into analog, but that's pretty pricey to do right and I would also have to invest heavily in records.
Definately my amps... 2 systems... Aragon Palladiums, in the ss system and Sonic Frontiers in the tube setup It took a while before I really found amps that meshed with my system... once the amps were nailed down, everything just got better!..Cables definately second... Source gear third..Krell kav 300 and classe cdp3.. and my modified Rega p3...But overall, material is the most consitently purchased items.. cds, lps, and dvds..
Relatively equal for turntable, phono stage, amps. Cables the highest cost due to long runs and the room equal to all cost of equipment combined.
My pre amp and amplifier were my most expensive pieces,
the logic being that it would make all my different sources (turntable, CD player, DVD, VCR, Direct TV) sound the best. However I am certain the sources are limiting the potential of my stereo (by quite a bit).
One of my reasons for doing this is that I really care about the sound quality of movies, not noisy action films, but thoughtful (often foreign) story (art) films.
My speakers are Maggie 1.6 which are cheating a little bit because I really think they hold their own with much more expensive speakers and components.
My system is as good as it's weakest link. Usually, when I upgrade one thing, it begins a lengthy (fun) process of a total system upgrade. I always say to my wife, however, "this is the last time honey." Anybody relate to this? Don't go crazy here. I already know your answer. We're audiophools. It's incurable.
The priority is based on the perceived weakest link and the best return on investment (sound-wise of course).
About equal for preamp,amps and speakers. Cable certainly is close. It really depends on what system your setting up. A two channel system will probably balance more equally between amps and speakers, unless you want to spring for the highest cost cable and interconnects. The preamp with appropriate d/a tech. may influence your decision on cd or dvd.
Mine worked out as follows:
Int. amp - 40% (used)
Speakers - 30% (new)
CD Player - 20% (new)
Cables/IC's - 10% (new)
I low-balled on the CD as I want to pick up a better used CDP soon. Also, the cable/IC # will change when I buy PC's for the stock ones. Oh, then there are power conditioners too, up the number agan.
Finally, let me say that I do believe in the balanced system scenario, it just makes sense (Thanx Viridian).
My biggest expense has been source material. Most expensive component was CD player, next Amp and Preamp. My speakers are home made, so not as much money spent there unless I count my labor - then they would be on top of the list.
Speaker/room is the highest priority. Then source, followed by pre/amp required to achieve proper SPLs musically.
I built my own room,to accommodate my system. If you do not have the room it is A waste to upgrade. The room can not show of the potential of the system with out it. If you are blessed with A good room,then I think that the speakers are the most important link in a system. They have the most change in sound than any other part of your system. Once you have the first two then you can really judge the rest of your system by tring other components to your liking. What ever is your listing preference is. They only have to please your ear, no one but yours. The argument will go on for years about the best components. Its what your ear tells you
LONG. The biggest priority is reproducing music. Nrchy's question relates to how we see the system reproducing it. However "priorities" does NOT equal "where does hard-earned cash go". I have found that, whatever each one's priority (mine was speakers &pre -- because, respectively, that's what my ear communicates with /the control centre of the system), a LOT of our cash is gobbled up by ELECTRONICS, esp amps. I find electronics OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive when the system goes beyond a certain level. Not so with speakers: there, I find that they lack in the reproduced RANGE (and in phasing) i.e. few speakers under giga$ applications are correctly full-range. BUT, we can achieve pleasant sound IF we drive them well enough (because, as many have noted, speakers are "weak" & full of inefficiencies).
Is it the speakers' fault for being so "mid-tech", inefficient, or whatever it's called? I don't know, but have you noticed that many speaker upgrades are accompanied by an anguished cry for help: "how do I drive these beautiful $6k XYZ Monitor Ref 69 MkII???" Try explaining that it may take $16k of amplification...
My electronics cost 35% of total main system (incl.cables & supports of course) and I have THREE sources, cdp & TT being in the "expensive" class. I.e. if I had only ONE source, electronics would hit ~50% of total investment!!! Just because I am ambitious enough (or silly enough) to want trick my ears into believing they're listening to a symphony orchestra!??!
BTW, it's not finished: Add direct power lines NOT because the sound is better (which it is) but for a practical purpose: I couldn't KEEP the amps ON, the draw on the normal house circuit was too HIGH on power-up. Let alone switch the airconditioner on at the same time -- ha!
So, were electronics my biggest priority? By deductive logic, no, but for practical reasons, that's where the money went. Indeed, not the amps: the POWER SUPPLY of said amps.
What's the point of arguing about, say, a Kharma ceramique's price/performance ratio, when you have to spend even more to drive it well enough to ascertain said ratio?
Albertporter, arguably, has a very well balanced system. Yet his latest thread (if I remember correctly) was AGAIN on electronics -- power amps. NOT his speakers! We have people here tri, quadra, penta-amping speakers, people with a COLLECTION of amps (and corresponding cables, and chords, and sockets)...to drive speakers. And they're not nut, IMO: they have the means, technical or otherwise, to implement a system. Focal point? The electronics, of course.
Pitie, as in French.
I'm side-tracking, but if we cannot "petition the Lord with prayer" (as a proverbial singer said) can we at least petition the manufacturers to research S/THING -- or Siemens, Philips, Sanken, Wima, AT, Motorola & similar garage industries (sic) that produce many of the components that go into our electronics, to take PITY on us?
Oh manufacturer, pluck thou the cap's murderous paw, and deliver us from the transformers' wrath; and liberate us from current stabilisers sting and free us of resistors' temptation. And deliver unto us, your humble servants far removed from the notable Mr Gates, FARADS rather than decimals thereof... ("Kyrie eleisson" is probably appropriate -- or "RIP").
Sorry this is long. I feel strongly about the subject, if you haven't noticed :) Clink!
I just bought a new house, but I think the system sounded better at the old house. So is the new listening room my most expensive/biggest priority or was it the new Krell amp I got a few weeks ago?
Congratulations, Nrchy. Enjoy your new home. Whether the listening room should be your biggest priority now is an interesting question. Perhaps so. Depends on how much of a problem it is. Obviously, you failed to make your purchase contingent upon inspection and approval by a qualified audio engineer. ;-)
In answer to your original question, my cd player was the most expensive component, though not by a lot because I got a really good deal on a demo, after I already owned the speakers (which when I bought them were the most I had spent on anything). Quite a bit higher retail price than my speakers, though. I would pay more for the speakers if I had to, but am happy with what I have and have put more money into secondary systems.
I seem to have just about evened it all out, w/o thinking. Digital front end about 2K used, amp $2K new closeout, pre-amp $1.8K used, speakers $2200 used, analog front end about $1600 (new arm, used table, re-tip cart from 'gonner). Not my plan, but that's what happened.
I let it be known to my friends that I am always willing to put a system together for them. This means I end up helping someone put a system together about once a month. No charges, just the fun of seeing what you can get out of a budget, and quite a lot of learning. The last system I put together was approx 4k for CD, 3.5k for pre, 6.5k for amp and 8k for speakers.
Cool, Red. I just did a REAL budget intro system for a friend: NAD C541i ($400), Spendor 3/1p ($800 used), Audio Refinement Complete ($800 used), same tuner ($500 used), a Neuance ($100) and a combo of my 83802-based PCKits ($100),
PowerBox ($55), a Blue Heaven RCA on the CDP ($125 used), and Canare StarQuad on the tuner and speaker cables ($50).
Plateau or Sanus stands ($200). Great system for under $2500, and half the fun is finding the stuff used...the other half watching his jaw drop as tears form. His wife is jealous!
I can see you enjoy spending other peoples' money as much as I do Ernie. At least part of the thrill of the real thing at no cost!