Ranking component importance

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by RichardMA, Aug 20, 2002.

  1. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    Here, IMO, are the rankings of components of modern
    equipment, in order of importance to obtain excellent
    sound. Unfortunately, we don't always spend the money on our systems with these factors in their correct order.
    Please feel free to disagree or not. [​IMG]
    1. Speakers (incl. sub)and room configuration. IMO, these are the predominant determiners of sound quality.
    This also includes room treatments you use.
    2. The software. WIDE variations in the quality
    of software as well as the sound format (DD/DTS, etc)
    make this almost as important as speakers/room, but we
    can't do anything about it (except complain to studios
    when it's bad) so it ranks second.
    3. Sound format extensions like DTS-ES, Pro-Logic II.
    That sixth or seventh speaker, extended surround info,
    can make a noticeable difference in a system.
    4. Speaker placement and tweaks. Put a sub in a corner
    versus the middle of the floor and it effects the sound
    markedly. Similarly, put speakers flat on the floor, or
    use spikes or acoustic suspension products that damp sound
    or vibration also effect sound noticeably.
    5. Preamplification. This can vary pretty widely, but does not have as much effect on sound as the previous two.
    This includes whatever equalization systems your receiver/preamp uses.
    6. Power amplification. Changes the character of sound
    and determines how much bass authority your system has,
    but not as much as your speaker system.
    7. Biamping and biwiring. Can have noticeable effect
    on sound, especially if attention is paid to the
    amps supporting the extreme low bass or high frequencies.
    8. Interconnects. This is HIGHLY subjective but IMO,
    their effect is greater than the effect different speaker cables have on system sound. Try a really different material for each (Kimber style twisted unshielded versus
    some kind of coax) to hear major differences.
    9. Speaker cable. Again subjective, but still important.
    Guage and the type of wire effect sound differently.
    10. All other tweaks, some of which are completely unproven
    and prone to cause lots of arguments. [​IMG]
    I don't know if I've forgotten anything?
     
  2. Greg_R

    Greg_R Screenwriter

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    You forgot the listener (along with his/her preconceptions and preferences). I'd put that as # 0.5
     
  3. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    well a good beer would be nice...some software perhaps to understand your room characteristics and spending the time to learn how to use it. maintenance products such as contact cleaners, etc. and ummmmmm...you probably already know my opinion of interconnects and wires, lol. personally, i don't think people spend enough time picking out speakers and probably don't weight enough of their audio dollars towards them. to me, it just kills me when people move from say studio 60's to 80's...talk about a financial hit!
     
  4. RichardMA

    RichardMA Second Unit

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    I think not placing speakers first is primarily financial.
    It's tough to spend say $3000 on speakers and $300
    on a receiver (it goes against our nature for some reason)
    but we know it would sound better if we spent
    $1500 on speakers and $1500 on a receiver. We want the bells and whistles a higher end receiver offers. Plus, it's
    easier over time to waste money on questionable upgrades
    concerned with the electronics than to dump one whole
    speaker system and buy a whole new one.
     
  5. David Berry

    David Berry Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello Richard,

    One thing I noticed that was missed was the actual source of the music (i.e. CD or record player). Perhaps that would be 4.5?

    David
     
  6. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

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    I would put power amplification before pre. Right behind speakers and software. Assuming that everything is preoperly placed and set up.
    [​IMG]
    -rob
     
  7. GalenValentine

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    Looks like everything I would put on the list has already been mentioned. My order of importance is slightly different. Though I am biased since Robert Harley's Guide to High-End Audio got me started in this hobby - I tend to favor his viewpoint (which isn't necessarily correct).
    1. Speaker placement. This has the highest bang-for-the-buck IMO because its costs only time and can have a profound effect on the sound.
    2. Room Treatment. I'm not talking fancy acoustic treatment here - though that certainly is the ultimate. Rugs, wall-hangings, and even bookcases can make a big different in reducing first-order reflections and slap echo.
    3. Speakers. I'm not sure about this one since my argument for starting with the source on equipment is that down-stream components tend to reveal short-comings in upstream components. However, if you don't have good speakers you can't hear all the wonderful changes wrought by spending those mega-bucks [​IMG] on other components. Kind of a chicken-and-the-egg thing.
    4. Source. For equipment I start at the source since down-stream equipment are affected by its performance i.e. a really good power amp will reveal the short-comings of a mediocre source.
    5. Preamplifier/Processor. We're working on down the component chain here. This is the heart and nerve center of any system IMHO.
    6. Power Amplifier. Your choice here is affected by your choice of loudspeaker and vise-versa. A speaker with a high senstivity rating e.g. > 94 dB probably wont need a 500 Watt/Channel power amp - though you might want the bragging rights anyway. [​IMG]
    7. Equipment Rack. You need something stable and solid to keep those components from inducing or being affected by mechanical vibration. Not to mention that a good rack will provide better ventilation than the floor.
    8. Speaker Cable.
    9. Interconnects.
    10. Power/Line Conditioning. Here I'm talking about something that not only protects your equipment but cleans up the grunge on the power line. I know, I know, some of you think that power conditioning is clap-trap. [​IMG] Oh well.
    11. Power Cords.
    These are just my priorities. Even I disregard them sometimes.
     
  8. Rob Rodier

    Rob Rodier Supporting Actor

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    After thinking about it for a second, mine change dependant on what I am listening to. For example when watching dvds I have found that a good av receiver is fine for amplification. Music on the other hand needs something with more power and finesse. If I was not really into music (90/10) I could save myself a bunch of money.

    -rob
     
  9. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    I would also put power amp before preamp. I can easily discern differences between two poweramps but its hard for me to discern differences between two preamps. But thats probably just my ears.
     
  10. Geno

    Geno Supporting Actor

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    Does anyone think about asthetics? or WAF? its gotta be in there somewhere. maybe 11
     
  11. Greg Haynes

    Greg Haynes Supporting Actor

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    What about video? Is this only audio?
     
  12. Pete Gia

    Pete Gia Stunt Coordinator

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    I`m with Galen. IMHO,anyone who is interested in getting good sound should have Harley`s book.
     
  13. Bob Marker

    Bob Marker Stunt Coordinator

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    I pretty much agree with your first 4 rankings. And I'd agree with David that source (LP, CD, tape, etc.) would rank pretty high. When it comes to items 5 through 10, I can't say any of the changes I've made in these components/accesories have materially changed the sound of my system(s).
    Bob
     
  14. GalenValentine

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    I hadn't thought to put athestics on the list. While performance is generally of greater concern to me, I do admit that the look of a component does affect my decision.
    Bob, there are a couple of lists floating around here. If you are referring to either Richard's list or mine I am surprised. Switching preamps and power amps has generally changed the sound in my system in very audible ways. If you don't mind sharing your experience, what kinds of equipment have you tried?
    Greg, I've been concentrating on getting the best two-channel sound possible with an eye toward adding HT later ( which will hopefully be sooner [​IMG] ). Like athestics, I just didn't think about video. But even when I watch movies the music is still very important to me. For me, then, a video monitor ranks last. But only because music is my first priority. Then again, I really enjoy the visual feast provided by movies like Elizabeth and The Fifth Element. Maybe I should consider moving video up a notch or two.
     
  15. RobertSchaez

    RobertSchaez Stunt Coordinator

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    This won't affect sound, but I think ergonomics of the source, preamp/receiver are important to an extent. If alot of functions that are frequently used are burried in menues, or ya can't read the damn readout from your favorite seat, it kinda sucks. I know, I know, the sound does come first...
     

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