Order of importance for equipment...

jaxwired

Well-known member
Feb 7, 2009
284
6
18,895
Thought it might be interesting for people to post the order of importance of equipment as it relates to sound quality of course.

1. The music. Bad recording can't be fixed by a great system.
2. Speakers.
3. Amp.
4. Pre-amp.
5. Source - CD, TT, Streamer/DAC
6. Room acoustics (could be higher if you have a bad room)
7. Cables
8. Power source.

Zero importance: Rack
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Agree with you but for one thing...the rack, for me its number 1.

Before my friend (whos an engineering student) built a rack with cooling fans in the bottom for the sub amp the thing overheated after 2 minutes and cut out. When your crossover is 150hz people tend to notice more than a change of source ;)

Joking aside given that the speakers are usually the most important part of the chain why is the general advice to spend the same on speakers as amps/cdp's etc? Am I missing something using a £30 external card as a dac?
 

Bodfish

New member
Jun 25, 2009
16
0
0
I'd be inclined to shift room treatment up to third - my view is that this is probably the single thing that the majority of people overlook. For me, I'd put the source above the pre-amp too.

I'd also quibble somewhat with the rack having 'zero' importance, especially if you're a TT or valve amp user?!
 

shooter

New member
May 4, 2008
210
0
0
jaxwired said:
Thought it might be interesting for people to post the order of importance of equipment as it relates to sound quality of course. 1. The music. Bad recording can't be fixed by a great system. 2. Speakers. 3. Amp. 4. Pre-amp. 5. Source - CD, TT, Streamer/DAC 6. Room acoustics (could be higher if you have a bad room) 7. Cables 8. Power source. Zero importance: Rack
Don't agree with your 1 too 8 jaxwired.

Room acoustics at no.1 for me, if you have a poor room it doesn't mater what music you play, it will all sound poor.

The music at No.2, poor in poor out..

Agreed, amp (power) at no.3, poor quality amp can do detrimental damage a speaker, clipping, voice coil's going etc, etc.

Agreed, pre at No.4, tonally so important and has a huge bearing on the sound so really could be at no.3, but..

No.5 speakers, match up with the pre and power, easy..

No. 6 source.

Not totally agreed with no.7 because they can huge a huge impact on sound but not as much as the above, no detrimental damage if picked correctly to start, amp's oscillating for instance but..

No.8 Power source (main's grid ?), can be very poor so could be up the list..

No.9 Rack, it has to go somewhere and not on top of each other...
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,245
11
19,195
1) Mood.

2) Loudspeakers and their interraction with the room.

3) Sources and amplifier.

Cables, power source, rack/supports/stands etc. only of concern if sub-standard or sub-competent. Like wobbly floors for instance, or a badly wired house, or using bell-wire with corroded ends(!) or inappropriate supports. (Putting a turntable on top of a big, hollow, uneven cupboard for example.)
 

Diamond Joe

Well-known member
Mar 1, 2008
88
6
18,545
I'm almost in complete agreement with you Jaxwired, although I echo chebby's sentiments about racks, a wobbly rack is no good to anyone, mind you, that said, all my stuff is sitting on a unit from that well known Scandinavian furniture company!!! I used to have a Target rack, built like an ocean liner, but looked horrible so it had to go, and I haven't noticed any difference in the performance of my kit.

Interestingly, I had a chat with a dealer last week about the relative merits of pre and power amps, he was adamant that the pre is the most important part of that combo, personally I would have thought it would be the power amp but i don't have much experience of pre/power combinations, so what do I know? [shrugs shoulders!]
 

lindsayt

New member
Apr 8, 2011
16
2
0
jaxwired said:
Thought it might be interesting for people to post the order of importance of equipment as it relates to sound quality of course. 1. The music. Bad recording can't be fixed by a great system. 2. Speakers. 3. Amp. 4. Pre-amp. 5. Source - CD, TT, Streamer/DAC 6. Room acoustics (could be higher if you have a bad room) 7. Cables 8. Power source. Zero importance: Rack
As a general guide, jaxwired's list is a very good one. However, in hi-fi I can't be so absolutist as to give a definitive order of importance - as it all depends.

I agree that the recording is the most important. A great recording on a not so good system will sound better than a very poor recording on a great system.

With vinyl there's a vast difference between a plasticky made-down-to-a-budget record player and a well engineered record player. The poor record player may well muck up the pitch accuracy and stability, the dynamics, the clarity and the detail retrieval - all of which are fundamental to getting good sound. Muck these up and there's nothing the amp and speakers can do to get these back. Having said that, once you get to certain level of turntable (which need not be expensive on the 2nd hand market) then other things take over in order of importance; such as the arm, cartridge, amps and speakers.

The room and listening position. At home I've never had a problem in any of the 15 or so rooms that I've placed my hi-fi. That's because I've had a normal amount of furniture in there and have positioned the furniture according to the hi-fi and not the other way round. When I exhibited at Scalford this year I had tonal balance problems. Far too much bass at the listening positions on a lot of records. That's because it was a large empty room, dining chairs only and somewhat directional horn hybrid speakers. Put some furniture in there, sit on a sofa to get the ear down to the vertical axis of the midrange unit and there's every chance that that room would have been a good one for listening to hi-fi.

Power amp and speakers. I see this as a combination that goes together. Synergy. Horses for courses. For my tastes I prefer SET valve amps for the midrange and ss (solid state) for the bass. So I prefer speakers that can be used with SET amps. Which means speakers that are suitable for active bi-amping or high efficiency gentle impedance speakers that can be used full range with a SET amp. These tend to be large speakers which tend to be more domestically acceptable in large rooms. Large speakers also tend to be better for better bass. So room, speakers, power amps all as a combination. Change one of these and you may well be looking at changes to the other 2 for best compromise results.

Pre-amps / phono amps. Once you get to a certain level of turntable arm cartridge, a change of phono amps can make more difference than a change in the source. But for me the choice of phono amps is academic as my favourite turntables come with good built-in phono amps. And if you've got a source with a healthy output then a simple inexpensive passive pre-amp (stepped attenuator or LDR) can sound great and could be the end of the line in terms of upgrades in that department.

I agree with the cables being a very low priority. In my system they can make a small tonal difference. I like to concentrate on large differences from changing major components. Some people place more importance on cables than me. That's fine. We're all different.

Power source. I've always used what's available without experimentation. So I can't comment on this.

For a turntable, a rack / wall-shelf plus location relative to the speakers can make a quite significant difference. For my amplifiers I can't hear any difference whether they're racked or just placed on the floor.

For non-floor-standing speakers, an appropriate stand helps. Something rigid that gets them to the right height.

For a 2nd hand system budget of £3500 to £6000 (depending on whether we're digital or vinyl or both) you can build a system that's about as good as it gets in every department. IE you don't need to compromise on source, amp, or speakers.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
I can feel one of my incessant, circumlocutory discourses coming on, as I tend to overthink these questions, due the amount of variables that exist.

Never one to conform, this is my order and the reasons why:

1. ROOM ACOUSTICS - A bad room can destroy almost any system, regardless of price. Although if you take an average room, then it falls down the list.

2. SOURCE - a) There is a pecking order here ie.Record deck; CD due to variables in transport/dac; streaming.
b) Taken to extremes, I would rather have £11k source + £11k amp + £1.5k speakers, than £300 souurce + £300amp + £20k speakers. Any info lost at source will never be found.

3. PRE/POWER - a) Hold equal importance, though if pushed, I'd put the pre slightly ahead.
b) Very expenive speakers sound poor if not controlled or given all possible info.

4. SPEAKERS - These would move up to 2nd place in the context of less extreme partnerships (used to make a point) eg. £500 CD + £1200 amp + £3k speakers.

5. THE MUSIC - This may be controversial, but the reasoning here, is that it can be mitigated to a reasonable degree with choice of componants eg Choice of source (ie. Record deck); choice of componants eg All Audio Note (valves) vs Cyrus CD + Cyrus Amp + Focal speakers.

6. POWER SOURCE - If you have very poor mains, it can come as a revelation to hear what a balanced mains transformer or mains re-generation can do. If on good mains quality/dedicated circuit, I would probably put below cables.

7. CABLES - You can't run a Formula 1 car on 3 star petrol. (or maybe you can. :p )

8. RACK - It needs to provide stability, ventilation and possibly asthetics. To get a reasonable gain in performance, it costs a lot of money, which is put into fancy materials and isolation systems - money that can usually can be put to better use.

I would also place importance on synergy (high on list), isolation and stability (nearer the bottom).

That's about it...thank you for reading (well you did ask)...and please feel free to disagree.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
1. Room - No matter what you do to any system, some rooms just sound bad. My room resonates horribly at about 115hz because of the amount of furniture in it. With it out, it isn't nearly as bad.

2. Speakers - Regardless of "source first" arguments, a £500 amp with a £500 CD player and £10,000 speakers, sounds better than a £500 amp, £10,000 CD player and £500 speakers. Of course there is moderation and system matching to be taken care of within this argument, in general if you want to change how your system sounds, vastly, this is the next best thing you can do than greatly altering your room.

3. Power Amp - So, you want to get the speakers moving properly. Try running a pair of B&W 802D's on a Musical Fidelity A3 power amp; it wont sound good, trust me, I tried it last week! Get yourself a proper power amp with a ton of current behind it. Think 60A+, this will make a huge difference to the bass performance of a lower (6 and under) impedance speaker.

4. Source - Yes, it's important. Not as important as it was when DAC's were much younger though. Changing source is now what I'd call a fine-tune. Get a well balanced speaker, a high current power amp, then go in search of a source to fine tune to your perfection. Remember, this step is more about the sound produced than money spent, you may be pleasently surprised at what you find.

5. Pre-Amp - Okay, so what does a pre-amp do? Well, many pre-amps are passive and still as loud as active ones. A pre-amp is a volume control, which makes the output of your CD player quieter. That's it. It's a volume control for several sources, nothing more. Not much to be done here other than get a reliable and well built unit.

6. Rack - As long as it's solid and doesnt wobble about, it's fine; your investments are in good hands.

7. Cables - Speaker Cables make more difference than any other, digital cables make (debatably) no difference

8. Power source - Is your fridge sharing the same 13 amp plug (as in, both wires going into one plug) as your power amp? No? It's fine. As long as nothing on that mains line is going nuts and using very variable amounts of power (ie a Kettle).

Of no importance: The recording. Listen to Gorgoroth's original albums, they sound like they were recorded in a cave with a tape recorder, but that's how they're supposed to sound. This is purely subjective in that I don't like how the Rolling Stones' songs were recorded, yet some hail them as materpieces. If you like the recording, you do, if you don't, then you don't. Remember the artist makes the track sound like they want it, if it's meant to sound washed out and colourless to portray a mood, then deal with it.

Just my take on things and how I order them, I am of course coming frm an angle of "How do I enjoy music as much as possible?" rather than "Damnit, I cant hear the mahogany of the chairs used in the recording studio vibrating at the third octave abov...". You get the point, enjoy music, it's the most enjoyable thing on the planet. Buy for your enjoyment, not to be 'the best'.
 

rendu

New member
Sep 10, 2008
192
0
0
My experience has been that number 1 is the amp and pre-amp, I put them together as in most cases it is integrated specially in the case of AV receivers. You can spend a fortune in speakers and source but if the amp (integrated) is not musical then you will not dance. My last change has been from an Onkyo 701 + BW 685 to an Arcam AVR280 + Wharfedale 9.1.s. + SW150 (subwoofer). The latest wins by far even though the 685 cost 4 times more than the Wharfedales.

If the amp is musical and sounds good, it will sound good with anything..... if the amp is not musical (like most AV receivers).... forget it... you can spend as much as you like but you will never make it...
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
The dealers on here are noticable by their absence on this topic.

Maybe, they don't want to get embroiled in subjective arguements that can't be won. ;)

Would still like to know their view all the same.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
In terms of what I believe and what I have spent money on in the past... I dont class music as equipment otherwise it would be number 1:

1. Speakers

2. CDP

3. Amp

4. DAC

5. Stands/Rack

6. Cables
 

aliEnRIK

New member
Aug 27, 2008
92
0
0
Interesting answers

Where I used to live, I genuinely couldnt tell the difference between an arcam 73 and 83 cd player. That was until it went through a mains filter

So a decent mains supply is a must so far as im concerned (not as important if the transformer in the unit is a big one as that will filter out a lot of noise - thus why I own a balanced mains transformer)

I also used to think pre amps are not important. All they do is take the signal and send it to the power amp minus whatever signal strength the user wants. Having had the pleasure of listening to an MBL 5011 pre amp with some far cheaper Musical Fidelity monoblocks V a musical fidelity kw500. The difference was staggering. the MBL pre amp lets so much more information through it genuinely shocked me and got me thinking - how many so called 'hifi enthusiasts' (myself included) are listening to their equipment thinking it cant get much better than this, when in fact theyve lost LOADS of detail in the pre amp section alone. Based on this new experience, I have to put pre above power on the scale.

Ill skip through cables - ive tested cables on some pretty high end equipment (Where its far easier to discern differences). I shake my head when I hear of so many people (including some very well known 'audio engineers') claiming they cant possibly make a difference so long as the basic principles are followed. Well im sorry but they do make a difference, and quite a big difference when used with top quality components.

Source - I have to put source above amplification. Ive heard huge differences in cd players. If the details not there, the amp cant amplify it. That said, having just bought an oppo 95, I can testify you dont need to spend more than 1k to get awesome sound out of a source (A source that plays pretty much anything you care to throw at it in fact). You can get better, but youll be paying a WHOLE lot more to do just that.

Speakers - if the source and the amp are amplifying garbage, it will sound awful if the speakers cost far more. My own set up at the moment has a pretty decent pre amp, a very good power amp, but speakers that cost less than a quarter of either of them. And yet it sounds awesome. Dont get me wrong, better speakers would sound better. But having compared my speakers to some costing far more, I certainly have my own reasons for going down this route.

Top of the list for me are 'EARS'. I find it intriguing that those people that swear there are no differences between cables and you can get 98% sound out of budget gear whilst needing to spend 10k to get 2% more are living on cloud cuckoo land. That, or the item at the top of my list is failing them.
 

dannycanham

New member
May 5, 2009
20
0
0
I don't think you can seperate some of them afterall components like speaker cabinets are tuned to a limited range of room volumes and amplifiers are tuned to control a speaker in a certain manner within a certain threshold.

1) The you, amp, speakers and room combination must work together first and foremost.

If the amp cannot control and complement the speakers...

If the amp/speaker set up isn't paired with the room size and the speakers positioned well...

If the room has strange acoustics like an acoustic guitar humming along to the music in the corner or a lorry rumbles the room as it goes past, lots of reflections or sucks the sound from the air...

If you don't know the kit styles you like (personally I can't listen to metal cones and favour smoothness and non fatiguing kit over all else), so if the kit isn't matched...

You are going to get unpleasant sounds when you sit and listen!

2) Your mood in general makes a massive difference and your mood in relation to your kit and the music being played makes a massive difference.

This is the big number 2 as although it makes a massive difference it doesn't make unpleasant sounds come out of your hi fi (unless you put on music that you think is an unpleasant sound obviously)

3) The source and pre quality are more subtle than the first 2, but when numbers 1 & 2 are good they get a chance to shine and it is a must to get a good source and pre. Strictly it is a part of number 1 but the effect is secondary. If 1 & 2 aren't good then these are irrelevant.

4) The power supply is more subtle still, but when 1,2 & 3 are good then make the most them with a good supply. Again if 1, 2 & 3 aren't good it's irrelevant.

5) Cables and racks have about as much of an effect as saying a prayer before you play the music. Works for some. They can all affect your mood which could make them important enough to be elevated to be included in number 2, but not necessarily for everyone. If 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 aren't good enough then they are guaranteed to affect nothing but mood. The cables change the sound but they can (and all) only damage the signal to varying degrees through capacitances and resistances and interference, they cannot improve it...although that damage to the signal may sound better to you. As for racks if I spend £300 upgrading some of the resistors in an amp it will make a much bigger difference than putting the amp on a £300 table...Unless its a pretty table that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside...Or if you are the type of person who finds music better if a salesman or a magazine tells you its better.

1) The you, amp, speakers and room combination...get rid of the unpleasant sounds.

2) Your general/kit and music mood...your head has to interpret the music.

3) Source & pre quality...drag the most out of the recording.

4) Power supply...drop some of the noise off.

5) Cables and racks...your head has to interpret the music or its largely balls and spend more money improving 1-4 instead.

Experience studied ElectroAcoustics including amplifier, speaker, source, room and recording equipment design as well as studied the human factors in acoustics. Messed about with hundreds of pieces of kit right down to the components and messed about with many different rooms all backed up by real science and real statistically significant tests into the effects of kit on samples of the population over many years.
 

AEJim

Well-known member
Nov 17, 2008
78
14
18,545
CnoEvil said:
The dealers on here are noticable by their absence on this topic. Maybe, they don't want to get embroiled in subjective arguements that can't be won. ;) Would still like to know their view all the same.
I think these are always difficult questions for a dealer to answer in the same way it's difficult for a manufacturer. My view would be Speakers > Amp > Source in the modern digital world with all having to be well balanced for the room environment in which they're used. But then I guess I would say that being a speaker manufacturer? If you're buying a turntable as a main source then the split should be a little more even as the engineering costs involved in making a good turntable are arguably more of a factor than those of a digital source.

The key to me is interaction of the chosen system in the listening room, there's no cost involved in that as such, but it should certainly influence the overall purchasing of a system far more than it seems to for many, if spending large sums I'd always try to get a home trial (though dealers seem more reluctant to offer this than when I was first buying my kit unfortunately).
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
aliEnRIK said:
Interesting answers

Where I used to live, I genuinely couldnt tell the difference between an arcam 73 and 83 cd player. That was until it went through a mains filter

So a decent mains supply is a must so far as im concerned (not as important if the transformer in the unit is a big one as that will filter out a lot of noise - thus why I own a balanced mains transformer)

I also used to think pre amps are not important. All they do is take the signal and send it to the power amp minus whatever signal strength the user wants. Having had the pleasure of listening to an MBL 5011 pre amp with some far cheaper Musical Fidelity monoblocks V a musical fidelity kw500. The difference was staggering. the MBL pre amp lets so much more information through it genuinely shocked me and got me thinking - how many so called 'hifi enthusiasts' (myself included) are listening to their equipment thinking it cant get much better than this, when in fact theyve lost LOADS of detail in the pre amp section alone. Based on this new experience, I have to put pre above power on the scale.

Ill skip through cables - ive tested cables on some pretty high end equipment (Where its far easier to discern differences). I shake my head when I hear of so many people (including some very well known 'audio engineers') claiming they cant possibly make a difference so long as the basic principles are followed. Well im sorry but they do make a difference, and quite a big difference when used with top quality components.

Source - I have to put source above amplification. Ive heard huge differences in cd players. If the details not there, the amp cant amplify it. That said, having just bought an oppo 95, I can testify you dont need to spend more than 1k to get awesome sound out of a source (A source that plays pretty much anything you care to throw at it in fact). You can get better, but youll be paying a WHOLE lot more to do just that.

Speakers - if the source and the amp are amplifying garbage, it will sound awful if the speakers cost far more. My own set up at the moment has a pretty decent pre amp, a very good power amp, but speakers that cost less than a quarter of either of them. And yet it sounds awesome. Dont get me wrong, better speakers would sound better. But having compared my speakers to some costing far more, I certainly have my own reasons for going down this route.

Top of the list for me are 'EARS'. I find it intriguing that those people that swear there are no differences between cables and you can get 98% sound out of budget gear whilst needing to spend 10k to get 2% more are living on cloud cuckoo land. That, or the item at the top of my list is failing them.
aliEnRICK

I think we're on the same page here...Do you want to form a "coalition"......what's your view on AV.......ie. Alternative Vote! :bigsmile:
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Here is a related list, also subjective, but now on how challenging the components of the system are to get value-for-money improvements...

6. Cables: sorry, not a believer. You can not change the laws of physics.. Spend what you like. Power thingies: no experience, no problems either.

5. Source material: huge differences, but totally out of our control. For instance, I really hate the way DVDs (movies) are produced/mastered, they almost always sound awful.

4. Cd etc. to be honest very limited effects to my ears. Most use standard chips that are really cheap by the 100 (look it up in catalogs) and deliver very high quality for low prices. Some differences due to the analog parts I assume. Dac's likewise.

3. Amplification: technology not changing a lot (except in digital amps), but still considerable difference in SQ, but you have to make big investments for big steps, rather than sideway moves.

2. Speakers: I admire speaker producers most. They have to work with difficult compromises and succeed get the sound of a piano, voice, AND rock band out of little square box. Also innovations continue in materials. Look out for nano technology in the future.

1. Room acoustics and speaker positions: possible to greatly enhance quality, but many constraints such as size & height of the room, furniture and carpets, wife. Only trial and error to get improvements for us amateurs, so with limits (new wife not always an option).
 

aliEnRIK

New member
Aug 27, 2008
92
0
0
CnoEvil said:
aliEnRICK I think we're on the same page here...Do you want to form a "coalition"......what's your view on AV.......ie. Alternative Vote! :bigsmile:
Im all for that
 

lindsayt

New member
Apr 8, 2011
16
2
0
I think that dannycanham's post contains a lot of good wisdom and advice.

A lot of interesting points in the other posts too.

Out of interest, would anyone care to name particular £10,000+ components that they think would support their arguments for the importance of any particular link in the hi-fi chain?

And then, would they be willing to get together with myself to compare these components against something that I could come up with that cost £300 to £2000?
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
lindsayt said:
I think that dannycanham's post contains a lot of good wisdom and advice.

A lot of interesting points in the other posts too.

Out of interest, would anyone care to name particular £10,000+ components that they think would support their arguments for the importance of any particular link in the hi-fi chain?

And then, would they be willing to get together with myself to compare these components against something that I could come up with that cost £300 to £2000?
Interesting challange.

In this game of "fantasy football" my team would be:

Linn Akurate DS (£4.5k) + MF AMS35i (£6K) + Spendor ST (£6.5k)

Game on :|

Cno
 

BenLaw

Well-known member
Nov 21, 2010
475
7
18,895
I think he meant a single component @ £10k+? I'll play this game, if I have to purchase and bring the £300 component, and he brings the £10k one
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
BenLaw said:
I think he meant a single component @ £10k+? I'll play this game, if I have to purchase and bring the £300 component, and he brings the £10k one
...hmmmm.....you could be right....though it's not particularly clear. :~
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Chord SPM14000 monoblocks. Musical Fidelity AMS100/Titan/Primo CD. Machintosh etc... There's a massive list. Of course its speaker dependant too...

If we're testing a £300 component against a £10k+ one, make sure the speakers are there to match, so what shall we use, let's say... B&W 800D's? Maybe even something from Dynaudio's Evidence range? So we also need a decent room too.

Meet these conditions, then test. There's no point though. NOTHING will touch those Chord monoblocks, which has ever been made.

Just because you can't hear a difference or don't believe there is one, doesn't mean that is fact. As for those of us who can hear it and enjoy it, don't preach at us.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts