It would help to know what you have?
Assuming they are already both somewhat equal and upscale in quality/performance, you'll hear more inprovement with an upgrade to the i/c's. And it'll be because they are "upstream" from the speaker cables.
Think of it this way, if you put the best speaker cables available in your system, if the i/c's relatively suck, and "takeaway" (more) from the music signal, you ain't gonna hear an improvement through your speakers, no matter how good of a speaker cable you use. The I/c would be the weakest link and you know what is said about a chain.
It sounds like your CDP is your primary source.You need to replace your IC first as previous post stated.
Could you please say what you're using now, and what length(s)?
I upgraded the ICs first in my recent overhaul. Basically the ICs deliver the music from source to preamp to amp. Once I replaced them I got a good idea of what my speaker cables could deliver. I ended up replacing them but the important thing was I knew more about why I needed to replace them and found an excellent match for the ICs.
I think the whole philosophy of always putting the "best" anything upstream is questionable if not nonsense. Unfortunately, it's just not this easy or I'd be spinning LPs on a Rockport turntable driving my old Marantz receiver and Pioneer HPM speakers.
What improvements would you like from cable changes? Do you want more resolution and detail, more dynamics, more dimensionality, midrange bloom, etc? I think the particular brand and model of the cables here will be a bigger factor than simply IC vs. speaker cable.
Please share with us the cables you are currently using. I owned ARC electronics for 15 years and can suggest a few ICs for you to try that worked very well. The performance of a few IC's in the $300-400 price range on the used market is quite amazing compared to the much higher models.
I have recently tried a speaker cable at this same price that is so darn close to the speaker cable I have using that I am truly very impressed. I find the point of diminishing returns to happen much sooner with speaker cables though. Your experieneces and trials could be very different here.
You simply need to try out several ICs and speaker cables with the money you are willing to spend, and hear for yourself what works in your system.
If you're interested in some suggestions for auditioning, send me an email.
You're asking a question that often polarizes the membership. There's Jafox and the "iPOD/Wilson" school of thought and the school of thought I belong to: "garbage in/garbage out". So. more specific information will elicit more helpful responses.
I just went through selecting speaker cables which is the last cabling I have addressed in my system. I was so impressed with the improvements, and this is with all 4 sets that I auditioned, that it left me wondering the same thing. "Should I have changed the speaker cables first so I could hear the differences in the ICs?" Seems it could go both ways. That is, if you're IC's aren't up to it then you don't really hear what the speaker cables can do, or if you're speaker cables aren't up to it then you don't really hear what the IC's can do.
With all of the choices in quality cabling these days I'm not sure that it really matters. You may not end up with the exact same combinations by starting from the sources as you would by starting from the speakers. But if you are auditioning each with your system I still think you will choose the best synergy anyway.
Excuse me Mt10425, but your comment about me was way off base. If you take note of my system, you will see it is very well balanced with a highly resolving front end. The fact that you associate me with a crowd where the focus is all at the tail end of the system simply shows that you know nothing about me and your ignorance about the system I have assembled.
I fully understand the argument, but it really comes down to garbage anywhere/garbage out. And how about common sense in/common sense out? The key is to find a balance throughout the system.
Focusing the upgrade strategy as always from the front end to the back is too simplistic. Recognizing the weakest link at any given time and resolving this will result in a far more balanced and musical setup. I think the post here by Dan_ed reflects much the same thoughts here.
Throwing lots of money anywhere, whether at the front end or down the path guarantees nothing. I have put a lot of effort to try many products in my home and have compared with other local audiophiles in their systems. What I often would have expected the outcome to be was not at all the case.
Some links clearly are easier to get "right" as there are many great products out there to choose from that bring on a high level of musicality. Others such as line stages and ICs to be used between the line stage and amp are quite a different case; I have only found a handful that retain the musicality I seek. And I am more willing to spend a great deal of money for these than I would for example a turntable, CDP or speaker because these latter products are among a group where there are many models whose musicality is obtainable at high value; you don't need to pay a fortune for these as they are already very impressive.
If possible, you should find a local dealer that would be kind enough to loan you a set of ICs and Speaker cables to find out for yourself? Keep the same price range so you could have a fair comparision. Have fun.
It wasn't meant as a derogatory comment Jafox. Simply that members perceive the importance of system connections differently. I'm always embarrassed when I unintentionally step on important toes.
I'd say dump the weakest cable no matter where it currently resides. I've experienced noticeable differences when swapping out cables in all locations.
Also it depends on what change you were hoping for. That could help you decide which is the first cable to go. It also helps you choose which cable to replace it with.
The prerequisite to all this is that you should read the forums as intently as Burgess Meredith did in his Henry Bemis/Time Enough At Last Twilight Zone episode. Research so you'll have an idea of what to expect before and after.
Bottom line. I've broken all the rules and continue to do so, and despite that still have had success.
Mt10425: Thanks for your clarifications here. I clearly was not too excited to be put in the "iPod/Wilson" camp and now I know that was not your intention.
Concerning the issue of "the importance of system connections", it really comes down to trial and error. For someone new to assempbling such a system, it's a good practice to start at the front end and work to the speakers. But after going through an iteration or two of system change, it becomes more and more evident that a different strategy, one based on experience rather than philosophy, needs to be taken.
John, you mentioned how resolving your system is. I imagine that finding the right synergy is even more complex. Less resolving systems may be more forgiving of shortcomings in cabling. You're right, it's very much trial and error, and of course, economics.
Actually, IMO, I would say that the more your system can resolve the easier it becomes to hear the differences in cables which can sometimes be very suttle. It does help to have several on hand to do comparisons with.
David, since late last year, I have heard two systems that are much more resolving than my own. One of these is an out-of-state dealer and the other is a local audiophile. Both of these systems render detail that makes one stand up and pay attention.
My system on the other hand conveys a 3-dimensionality and intrumental presence which brings on a much different emotional response. However, for all of this, I pay a small price in a higher noise floor and thus ultimately a loss in detail. To me this is a small price to pay. As with a system at any price point, it comes down to personal preferences.
When I look to "upgrade" my system, my biggest concern is to not lose any of the strengths that it has today. It's not so much an issue of synergy but rather to improve upon what I have and to not give up one thing for another. This is what makes the quest for improvement not so quick and easy..
When system improvements bring on other sonic attributes such as greater dynamic contrasts, more tonal coherency, etc., once one gets used to these refinements as well, they too become very hard to give up when an interest to upgrade comes along. The key is to retain a balance in each of these qualities as opposed to focus too much on one factor.
Besides the higher noise floor of my preamp, another reason why I suspect my system does not compete with the other mentioned two systems' resolution is my cabling. I like the NBS Statement very much as it does a phenomenol job to convey space and decays. But it gives way to other cables in ultra resolution.
There's so much focus on tonality of cables....that people use them as "tone" controls. Cables make a far greater difference in other areas as the system becomes more and more refined.
When swapping the Nordost Vahalla to NBS Statement in a local audiophile's system, I found the sound to immediately be more rich and full; there was clearly more dimension to the instruments. But there was a definite loss in subtle details at the very top that the Nordost conveyed quite impressively. The differences were not subtle and yet with either cable, the system was incredibly musical. Adding a second NBS into the system made things larger than life and also removed too much of the fine details in the music. In this case, one could argue that it is a synergy issue but I think of it more it's a balancing act that results in a matter of personal preference.
One past experience with trying out some cables between the line stage and amp was that I could immediately reduce the quality of the system to a point where the whole presentation was flat, lifeless and one-dimensional; I had no interest to listen at all. Yes, the "wrong" cable in just this one link can very easily destroy the sound of a top-notch system....trial and error indeed.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to my post, but I've been experiencing computer problems. All fixed now.
For cables (both interconnect and speaker cables), I am using Verbatim cables, built by the national sales manager of Von Schweikert Audio, Paul Garner. They are very fast, transparent and extended, that I think would probably sound better on a warmer sounding speaker.
I've always found that the biggest improvements come closet to the source especially if it is an analog source. AS one moves further away from the source the improvements diminsish. Thats not to say better speaker cables won't be an improvement just not as signifigant as a speaker cable change.
I'd change the ICs first as it will be cheaper and see what happens
(cables are) are very fast, transparent and extended
Given this info, try different spkr wire. Spkrs are a complex load and with the wire connecting the amp create a somewhat unpredictable circuit. Try any wire (rather than going for more expensive) preferably single core, just to test results.
Louis1 - What kind of speakers do you have? Do you like your Verbatim cables?