Which IC is more important?

I don't know if this has been addressed specifically before, but I couldn't find it searching thru the cables forum. At the risk of being redundant, I'll put this forward to the community.

Looking at a CDP - line stage - amp sequence, which of the two IC's is more critical? Any reason, scientific or other, as to why? What have your experiences been in using different IC's in these places (ie. type of IC, quality, cost, etc.)?

Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.
I don't know if there is a definitive answer but I always found it better to work from the source down, in other words a great IC b/t your pre and amp will not make up for the radioshack b/t your cd and pre, however do not make the all to often mistake of using the audiophile equation better=more$$$
I'd say both are important in my experience. If part of the path is weak it will affect the sound. My best IC is between the Preamp and Power Amp for the simple reason that I also have a Tuner, Turntable, Tape Deck and Video Source plugged into the Preamp. Having my best IC as a pre/power link helps all of these components sound their best. It is a budget issue. My Pre/Power link is a Nordost Quattro Fil. I cannot afford more than one. My second best IC is from the CD player to the Preamp (Siltech). It has the biggest potential for improvement. A tuner only goes to 15,000Hz, so no need to improve the highs above that. Lastly, component matching is important. The "best" interconnect for each component is not necessarily the most expensive. It is the one that sounds best to me regardless of cost.
Also my REL subwoofer runs off the speaker terminals (high pass filter) so the best Pre/Power link also affects the bass signal picked up by the REL.
The source to pre IC carries a lower voltage signal so, the less the sonic interference of the conductor, the more "true to source" is the sound going to the pre. This said, different cables perform *differently* at different placements in the system (lots of differents here, sorry). Trial is the way to go -- another trick is to use the same cables throughout if you like the sonic signature (or lack thereof). The logical sequence would be, source->pre, pre->power.

BUT, cables performance in some systems is a function of system x voltage...

I, for one, would expect that Sugar's siltech/quattro combo is best as is, rather than the other way round: in my experience, the quattros were better with higher voltages. Sugar knows best, but maybe he doesn't need to afford a 2nd quattro.

I used the low to higher voltage sequence when assessing cable upgrades.
One sentence - what is lost at the beginning cannot be recovered...
RGD you are briliant.You could not in fewer words some up the biggest audio truth that exists.
That is also why the SOURCE IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR SYSTEM.Not the speakers.Bravo
Although I agree with the source being the most important, if you use any other sources at all, such as LP, tuner, tape, etc. you will get the freebie of improving these also if you go between preamp and amp. People are often shocked when they hear a properly aligned tuner with an antenna receiving a live broadcast. No storage medium is involved and the sound can be stunning.
Which ever one sounds the best where ever it is located is the most important.
Well I too am a believer that you start with the source but my cable experiences paint a much different picture. I have learned that there are two links in my system where cables make the biggest difference: line stage to amp and tonearm cable to phono stage.

I have tried so many cables (NBS, Transparent, Cardas, AQ, Straightwire, SilverAudio, Magnan) and I can move around different cables in the system to listen for differences. The link between the line and amp is always the biggest difference. This was more about preserving the ambience and bloom of the system (Linn TT, Pioneer PD65, ARC DAC3/PH2/LS5/VT130 and Maggie 3.3. Some cables in this link retained the magic and others completely lost it. I could swap cables between phono stage and line or DAC and line and here some changes in resolution or tonal balance, but it was subtle...the link from line to amp was not subtle at all.

I worked so hard to try to hear differences with speaker cables and yet, the changes were again so mininal. The only other area of significance was the tonearm cable. Here resolution was very apparent. The SilverAudio was miles ahead of the ARC or Straightwire in terms of information retrieval.

So for me it has not been a matter of the better cables at the front of the chain. And this surprised me. But I have learned that each link tends to be affected by cable changes differently than the other links. Sometimes resolution, or tonal balance or ambience, etc. For me, the NBS Statement works by far the best in the line to amp link. But the Cardas Golden Cross worked well too but perhaps a little too warm and rich in the midrange. But it took the NBS to bring on another level of resolution and retain the magical ambience of the system. Swapping source cables to the line stage had minimal effect on this.

Your experiences may end up totally different. Always try before you buy!
RGD makes a very short and sweet point. I bet you guys wish that i posted more in that style, huh ??? : )

On the other hand, Puubie ( gotta luv it) also hits the nail on the head. Regardless of make, model or price, what sounds and works best in a specific part of the system is what counts.

For some further thoughts on this, try taking a look at this post that i did over at the Asylum a while back. Whether you agree or disagree, it might offer some food for thought. Sean

Rgd made a good point as well as Puubie and Sean sums it up. Let you're own ears be the final word.....
Both the interconnect between source and pre and the one between pre and power are equally important. But each serves a different purpose and the selection of each should reflect its different purpose. The one between pre and power should be as neutral as possible, have great dynamics, great bass and treble extension. In contrast, the one sitting between CD, for example, and pre can be less dynamic and can even exhibit some bass or treble roll-off. It should provide a very clean sound which can even be slightly lean, bright or balanced to give bloom to the upper mids or highs without negatively affecting the overall sound of the system. To demonstrate this, you can use Kimber PBJ, an excellent budget interconnect between CD and Pre. Trying it between pre and power would be tantamount to a disaster in my opinion. There would be no bass and lacking in dynamics. While I believe that there are interconnects that sound better in my system, I hesitate in saying that there are great interconnects and bad interconnects. I use them to fill in what the rest of the system lacks in synergy. Hopefully, for any problem in matching components, there is an interconnect (or a speaker cable) which will fill in what is missing, or cut what there is too much of. Therefore, there is no cable which fits all situations and doubling up on the same cable model or even manufacturer (different models) is almost always a bad idea. You will usually get too much of one thing and the system will tend to sound unbalanced. The only time I have noted where two interconnects from the same manufacturer complemented each other quite well was Acoustic Zen Silver Reference on CD to pre while running Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference on pre to power. But then, all interconnects are somewhat colored, none ever sound perfect, and each only has application to complement the existiing sound of a particular system rather than universally enhancing and matching every system.
While I appreciate the elegance of "short and sweet" pointers, I don't find them very useful as learning tools. I am relatively new to this hobby, but having perused through many posts here and elsewhere, I do feel I already have a grasp on basic concepts...I know not to equate "cost" with "better" and I know I ultimately need to listen with my own ears.

I LIKE long, windy posts. I enjoy reading them, esp if they are in reply to one of my questions. I can learn a lot from peoples' opinions and past experiences.

If you look at the text of my original question, I'm searching for your experiences and thoughts on the location of IC's you've used and experimented with, as well as general thoughts on theory.

I am NOT looking for pithy little statements that don't contribute to my understanding of the journey that led you to your current state of affairs. RGD, not to pick on you, and I hope you're not offended, but your statement above isn't all that useful. "what is lost at the beginning cannot be recovered" is true, but so is the fact that if you transmit a skewed or unfaithful signal to the preamp, you're just magnifying that unbalanced signal too, correct? Franklapdog, what did your statement contribute to this thread? You as well Leafs?

I appreciate the rest of you sharing your understanding of things with me. I hope to hear more from you all, and welcome others to dialogue here as well.

I had a really long and juicy post to make, but now I feel somewhat stifled and just can't move on with it. Oh well.
Mapleleaf, being one of the people that typically makes "long winded posts", I quite honestly did not feel flattered in the least by your comments. I found your reply kind of rude and insulting to some of the others that tried to pass on some short and simple "pearls of wisdom". Obviously, i was not alone in these feelings.

You need to realize that there are some statements that can be said very eloquently and to the point. These are typically self explanatory so long as one can think for themselves. As such, i am GREATFUL for those that are gifted with intelligence and the ability to convey their ideas in short and simple statements. I, on the other hand, typically try to spell things out for those that may not have "been there / done that" as of yet. The "fans" of "short & sweet" posts probably find me "wordy" at the least. Both types of posts have their place and neither is better / more important than the other. It is one of those things that makes this place an excellent source of information with a variety of flavours.

If you don't care for some specific style of post ( short of flames and namecalling ), just remember that even roses have thorns. Look for the good and you won't have to worry about the bad.

As to looking for specific suggestions as to cabling & placement, i think that 97% of the regulars would agree that building a system is almost completely a matter of "trial and error". Since SOOOO much is up to personal taste and dependent on the specific system, NOBODY can lay out an ABSOLUTE "blueprint" for what works best where. There are many times that i ( and i'm sure others ) have picked up "the latest & greatest" cable to use between component A and component B and found out that it works MUCH better between component X and component Y. Without trial & error / experimentation, we would have never found that out.

Part of knowing what is "good" and what is "bad" is hearing the differences for yourself. While it would be nice to not have to study or do any work and still "ace the test", unfortunately, that is NOT the case with this hobby. While it is true that we can all learn from each other, YOU really should experience the "growing pains" of audio. Besides being a large part of this enjoyable hobby, it will also help you to more fully appreciate your "work of art" when it is near completion. Sean
I normally posts pretty short, but I will stretch this one out for you. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like.Try both and see what you like. Try both and see what you like.
If none of the above works......Try both and see what you like. Long enough for you?
You may also want to try not insulting people that try to help you.
Mapleleaf, Sean is absolutely right!!!!!Most of us have spent alot of time and money putting our rigs together and have grown to appreciate our accomplishments.How long have you been into this audio thang anyway???You obviously don't understand when others are trying to help or you would be more respectfull of you're fellow peers........We're all tring to reach that same place,so lets have some fun and enjoy the experience.......
Mapleleaf,RGD post is all you need to know.If you cant grasp the concept stop wasting your time.ITS that simple.Sorry we cant complicate it for you to wrap yourself around.
Its the audio truth that again most cant handle the truth.
If the audio world was based on truth there would be no cd palyers around and we would all have tube amps.
Mapleleaf - offended no, surpised...a little. I very much appreciate those who have come to my or for that matter the defense of those who post in a "short and sweet" manner. Mapleleaf will hopefully see that there are many here that offer excellent but detailed responses to questions (Redkiwi, Dekay, Trelja, Megasam, Sean, etal) - forgive me for not making the list longer as I do not see the need to run off at the mouth... but there are many posters who can express their opinions with less attention to detail and still get the point across.

My advice to you is to read them all, garnish what you will or can and be thankful that someone took the time to help...
There isn't anything left to do but apologize. I did not intend to offend, but I obviously did. For that, I am sincerely saddened by what I have done and ask all for your forgiveness, especially RGD.

I think sometimes I log onto this site too late in the night, after work and kids are done and put to bed, and fatigue and bad moods can shape the way I read into certain posts. I'm not offering this as an excuse, but perhaps as context for my last comments.

I cannot undo or retract what I have already said. I hope you all do believe I am sincerely sorry though. ALL advice is appreciated as I am grateful for your time in even looking at my threads. I will improve my own attitude for future correspondence.

Again, please accept my heartfelt apologies. I hope none of you hold this against me and will continue to dialogue with me, so that I may continue to learn.
Sorry I was a little harsh myself with my last post.
It really starts at the source.Dont let anyone tell you otherwise.
Go to www.uhfmag.com and take the 20 minute course to HIFI.Very Informative.
Your apology accepted gratefully Leafs. I hope you accept mine.

I counldn't agree with you more on the source. When I first put everything together, I started, like many I'm sure, with the speakers, cuz they're the sexiest thing to purchase in the whole system. I spent so much on speakers and amplification, I thought I could skimp on the CDP, cuz bits is bits, right? WRONG. What a difference the quality of CDP makes! I firmly believe now that every part of the chain affects the other parts. This is what led to the question. I wish I could eliminate all the "weak points" of my system, but it takes time and money. Short on both!

Getting yours and others input on what you've tried and liked or tried and hated, gives me a starting place. I'm not trying to "ace the test" without studying, I'm willing to put in lumps and bumps to see what sounds best in my system; I'm just trying to see where others have gone before me to help pick which paths I'd wander down as well.

I know this: I'd rather ask you all for advice than rely on Stereophile or TAS or other commercial sites, because I TRUST YOU ALL MORE.
No blood no foul...
I have to jump in here about this source as being most important idea. Although RGD's pithy advice is on track as far as electronics go, Leafs is in error when he says that your source is more important than your speakers.

If your goal is accuracy, the most important component in any system is its weakest link. As between amps, preamps and source components, the largest errors are generally found in source components. It is, therefore, good advice to get the best cd player or record playing equipment that you can afford and skimp on amplification if you have to make that choice. And, in the context of this thread, the IC between the cdp and preamp is usually more important than the one between the preamp and amp. Not always, though, depending on certain peculiarities of some preamps.

But, the reason Leafs is off track, is that speakers deviate from accurate, flat, frequency response and accurate dynamics to a far greater degree than cd players or even phono cartridges, and therefore have the potential to do much more damage to what you hear than anything else in your system. Speakers have character. I happen to believe that my favorites have less of that than any others, but that may be because they sound right to me and wouldnt sound the same to you. No question but that your speakers are mgo6important than anything else in your system. They are the weakest link.
More important. I couldnt edit even though it was the last post.
RGD, where's the rest of your post? ;-)

I hope you believe that I'm sincerely sorry about how I felt about your first post. Thank you for sticking around. I'm learning to be more open minded.
Did some mention hockey...? RGD, my favorite is "No autopsy, no foul." It's usually applied to Mick McGoo(n).

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
Paulwp your all wrong.The speaker is not the most important pieces.As you say if they add errors then if the singnal is wrong to start then your even in worse shape.
You cant judge what a speaker can realy do without a good source.I have heard 1k speakers sound great with 6 K source.I have heard 20 K speakers sound awfull on 1k sources.
The upstream cable is always more critical, because it affects everything downstream. That said, there are a variety of combinations that can work. Having the "best" cable at the beginning of the chain won't always be "best overall". It's a good rule of thumb to try it there first, of course. This seems like basic logic to me.
While i understand COMPLETELY where Carl is coming from and basically agree, my question is "what makes one cable "better" than another" ? Is it price ? Is it materials ? Is it geometry ? Is it gauge ? Is it specific electrical characteristics ? etc...... As such, all cables are simply "different". Where a specific cable works best in a system can only be found out via trial and error. I have had some "el cheapo" / "generic" / "non-audiophile" cables completely blow cables costing hundreds of dollars away in specific situations. I know that others have also run into the same situation. Bottom line: there is NO "best place" OR "best cable". It's all system dependent. Sean
In defense of ML: W/O pretending to know the style or manner of all the regulars on this board (including him) I saw through his curt statement. He didn't intend to be insulting or ungrateful, though he certainly came off that way. He was just expessing his honest feelings without sugur-coating it: He simply enjoys and appreciates the longer posts thats all.

There were many excellant comments admonishing his behavior as well, that I do not want to slight. Every one (thank goodness) is a unique individual who thinks and express' themselves differently, hopefully with a clarity and intelligence. Judging by this post I believe we can guess my preference; apologies to those fans of brevity.

I especially concur with Sean's advice for finding out yourself, side tracks/pit falls included, if only to appreciate "your work of art". True appreciation is measured by the scarfices indured (hows that for short). I also agree with Carl, IME especially of late, the link between line stage and amp is pretty damn critical, least to these ears. YMMV.

The interface between all components is obviously critical, I think everyone agrees with that - for me the preamp/amp connection is the most critical and I proved it when I did extensive auditioning of cables. I noticed a bigger difference when swapping out that interface vs. source to preamp. Can't say why but it was...YMMV
A couple of comments have implied that I'm trying to take short cuts to "audio nirvana" by putting up this post. I'd like to make it clear that I am not. I am trying different stuff on my own, in different places on my gear. It's been, and always is, great fun and a great hobby.

If you construed from my comments that I'm looking for advice like "Hey, try cable XYZ that costs ABC dollars at your source because it'll sound good!", then my question and dialogue should've been more clear.

Your input is great, long or short. I don't believe longer is better. I'd love to hear about your journey in getting to where you are today though.

I'd also like to share with you about what prompted me to post this question. I swapped cables X and Y in my gear, and after letting them settle, I concluded it sounded horrible in that configuration. Putting them back the other way sounded good again. Obviously something is afoot...little cable elves got upset???
Thanks for clearing things up Mapleleaf. Sorry if it seemed like i was jumping on you or "nagging". It was not intended that way but may have appeared as such.

As to Pop's findings about the cables between his pre and power amp making a BIG difference, that should be obvious to all involved with this hobby. That specific interface will affect EVERYTHING in the system. Unlike changing the cable for just one source, ALL of the various source signals AND the preamp have to pass through it. That's why i posted a link to "voicing your system" over in the Cable Asylum. Knowing what cables to change and when to change them can make a WORLD of a difference in terms of budget and system synergy. Sean
Thanks for your comments Sean. I appreciate any constructive criticism. At least you didn't resort to juvenile antics to admonish. I would like to be a positive person here, and not one prone to hissyfits or negavitism. Always enjoy your input, and read your link with great interest.

I've got a really simple system. I have a source, line stage, and amp. So theoretically, swapping cables here should be "equal" in terms of impact, right? I've found that this is not the case, so there must be synergy or something here at work.
"The upstream cable is always more critical because it affects everything downstream." No! It really comes down to how each component integrates with the rest of the system. And some links in the chain are far more critical than others. All this said, in my own experience, I can put a cheapo $30 Canare or Belden XLR 1m cable between my phono (ARC PH2) and line stages (ARC LS5II) and a multi-thousand$ NBS Statement XLR cable between my line stage and amp (ARC VT130) and this works incredibly well. If I reverse these cables, all of the magical ambience and resolution brought on by the NBS is GONE! The line-to-amp link is just a lot more critical in the context of my system. It's that simple. Whatever science or theory or salesmen or magazine reviewers may tell me, my ears tell me a different story to what I would have expected. And putting another expensive cable in the phono-to-line link makes a very minute difference....so I don't bother with one in this link. Of course I would love such a cable to bring on another level of performance here, but it just didn't happen. Was I disappointed? A little as I wanted more....and yet I saved a lot of $$ in the process. Maybe it's the output/input impedances between the connecting components, the location of the components in the room, etc., I don't know. But I don't make any blanket statements as to what is "best" or "always". You just have to borrow a few different brands, perhaps many pairs of each, start with one brand throughout and then swap a link at a time and see what cables works well in each link. Some cheapo cables just might outperform very expensive ones or at least be so darn close that you recognize the value. Don't be afraid to put a $30 cable in between $10k of components. And don't be afraid to put a very expensive cable between less expensive components. The prices on some of these products often has nothing to do with their musical virtues so try all combinations you can. And don't be concerned about staying with one brand of cable. That's another misnomer. Hope this all helps.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link...

This is the wisdom for all hi-fi. However, having said that, the lower the level of the signal - turntable to phono - the more *sensitive* it is to cable effects. You can easily see how this works by comparing that to the balanced 600ohm studio lines... the studio signal is much LESS effected by the wire/cable than is your phono. (which is why they use balanced 600 ohm lines in the studio...)

The other caveat, for which there is a section on my website, is the idea of "complementary coloration". In short you can not compensate, or correct/unfilter once you have filtered. A cheap, *poorly performing*, interconnect is a type of filter...

BTW, afaik, "IC" = Integrated Circuit... we need something else to call Interconnects... maybe ICNs? ICTs?? But not
ICs... :- )

How about ICBM's?
What would the "BM" stand for, other than the obvious scatalogical reference?
Ummm: Between machines? I didn't really think that one through.