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Speakers or First Source? (1 Viewer)

paulBAW

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Apr 18, 2003
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Many people have debated which should be the primary focus when building an audio system. Ideally balance is everything, but few systems have complete balance. Resources are often limited and one part of the chain is usally neglected. Most agree that if money were to be invested more in one area, Speakers would be the best money spent.

However, I have talked to many friends and even family who feel that the real investment should be the first link or source in contact with the audition material (CD/DVD) Because many people see speakers they often feel the need to consider it the most important factor in determining sound. Often neglecting the actual source hardware picking up the software. I'm very guilty of this as well. I'm considering a Bryston 3B SST to be paired with either Energy Verita 2.1's or Studio 40's yet I have a $600 sony SACD player.

Some would argue that if I spent far less on the speakers and amp I'd actually have a much better sounding system if I invested the bulk on a CD or SACD player. One example given to me was when a roomfull of Journalists were allowed to listen to a disguised system. They listend and were then asked what they thought of the sound. After listening they concluded that the sound was in fact very good, some insisted that it might have been some of the best musical setup they had ever listend too. Many were shocked to find out that this "reference system" they had thought they heard was in fact a Linn12CD (20k) matched with a very modest intergrated amp and a set of budgest $150 PSB Alpha Speakers.

This example has made me reconsider my inital approach to home audio. While I still enjoy speakers and amplification, I'm starting to wonder if the biggest difference is actually in the first link rather then the last being the speakers. I'd like to hear some thoughts or comments on the subject.

Thanks
 

jason willder

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Feb 26, 2003
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No way. I think the idea of balance is essential. You might find better balance by getting a less expensive amp that is comperable to the Bryston. I would love to own that amp. It seems to me you are paying alot of money for the warranty, which is awesome by the way. By saving money on the amp and not really comprimising you could upgrade your source later if you felt the need. Also you could buy a larger speaker as well. Hell save your clams and get the 100s and you won't regret it. I'm not knocking the Bryston, but if funds are an issues it is probably not the way to go. I think. By the way what are you using for a pre/pro.
 

Greg*go

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I know that one main argument is that speakers will most likely last a lot longer then pre/pro's / dvd players will... Since a new sound format seems to be coming out every other year. The pre/pros / sources get outdated too fast. When's the last time you heard of speakers being obsolete? This is one reason why I would consider spending more in my speakers then in my sources.
 

paulBAW

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Apr 18, 2003
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CD players have been around for more then 20yrs. LP's much much longer. Once SACD wins the eventual war against DVD-A that too should be around for a very long time.

My question was asking if anybody has experienced this first hand? We seem all to easy to spend $1000's on speakers yet few of us spend the same kinda money on the actual source. And from what I'm hearing the first source could be in fact more important then both the amp and the speakers.

How often do you hear a system spec from a forum user along the lines of this:

Paradigm Studio 40's
Rotel RX-1050
Yamaha CD player

Thousands spent on speakers and amplification yet only a few hundred dollars on potentially the most important up source, the cd player.


And how often do you NOT see this from a forum user?

Paradigm Monitor 3's
NAD Intergrated C320
Linn Genki cd player

I just thought it was a great topic for discussion.
 

Martice

Screenwriter
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Jan 20, 2001
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My question was asking if anybody has experienced this first hand? We seem all to easy to spend $1000's on speakers yet few of us spend the same kinda money on the actual source. And from what I'm hearing the first source could be in fact more important then both the amp and the speakers.
It is not only the fact that the speakers are the third most important aspect of your system but it definitely comes before the source player. Actually, even the source material comes before the source player.

If you have a world class CD player it will not help you if you have terribly mixed and produced source material playing. I don't care what CD player you have, if the source material is overly bright your CD player won't help it much. Now if your source material is bright and you have speakers that are voiced on the laid back mellow side, you may be able to tolerate the bright source material more than you would if your speakers were voiced the opposite. System matching (synergy)is the key to getting the most out of your listening sessions.

What if you like to listen to heavy metal or RAP music that's known to be mixed heavy on both extremes of the frequency spectrum? Do you go out and purchase a CD player that plays on the mellow warm side with hopes that it will some how soften up what is recorded on the disc? How much do you think a CD player is going to help with the type of mixes that are currently released with these types of music?

1) Room acoustics first - The most obvious and critical room placements should be addressed in every HT/Audio room.

2) Source Material - take into consideration what type of music you like to listen too. I don't think you'd spend a lot of money on speakers with extremely high quality drivers and crossovers if your main goal is to play hip hop and rock or any other more aggressive music form that is mixed to sound it's best when played extremely loud and not at the lower levels when listening critically. Would you?

3) Speakers - The speakers will have a much more dramatic affect on what you hear in your system then any CD player.

4) Source Player - Yes CD players do add their own signatures to a degree and some do a better job of signal retrieval than others but they do not alter the sound of what you hear to the degree that speakers, room and source material does.


** In short, you're only as good as your weakest link and to me the room is equivalent to the body and the speakers are your way of communicating to the outside world. The source player may be the brain but the source material is the information that is in the brain and what good is the brain if there is nothing in it?
 

Greg*go

Supporting Actor
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Jun 14, 2002
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Well Paul, with that kind of thinking, it might NOT be a good topic since it points out everyones weakest component. :D
 

Chris Tsutsui

Screenwriter
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Feb 1, 2002
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Interesting topic...

I believe speakers play a larger role than CD players.

Have you ever tried 3 different brand CD players in the same price range and could effortless distinguish between them?

Take portable CD players as an example. It is hard to hear the difference between those yet very easy to hear the difference in headphones.

Now take 3 loudspeakers in the same price range and try to distinguish between them, like say.. Klipsch, Bose, and some prefab online DIY speakers. I think it's safe to say speakers show a much greater difference between eachother than CD players. How often do you see people going into specialty audio stores and asking to A/B compare CD players and then buy a loudspeaker before every trying it out. Now think of how many people buy CD players without auditioning them, yet who audition speakers before they buy them.

Also look at magazines, and how many reviews and advertisements there are for loudspeakers as opposed to CD players. That is because the loudspeaker industry makes up a big portion of peoples system budgets, just like it does for most people on this forum. So by saying speakers are a weaker link than player is going against a vast majority of audiophiles and enthusiasts.

A reason you don't see system specs from a forum user that has cheap speakers and a high end CD player is because they choose speakers that suit their taste for music since all loudspeakers do the same thing. People choose a CD player more for the features, functions, or specifications.

Linn12CD (20k) matched with a very modest intergrated amp and a set of budgest $150 PSB Alpha Speakers
Of course some people are going to think it sounds good, what they need to do is compare that sound with something else. Perhaps the PSB Alpha speakers were doing a great job of sounding good while the amp and player played a much lesser role. Sell the 20k Linn, buy a 10k loudspeaker and replace the Linn12CD with a 10k model and I wonder which system people will prefer.

The physical design properties of a CD player has a fairly simple approach of simply reading digital ones and zeros, and sending it out a wire/optical cable. Then take a loudspeaker which has to physically play virtual and spectral pitches, and require the integration of a few drivers to produce the actual sound itself. Much more subjective factors involved and complex acoustics with no "real" measureability. With a CD player, there is only one way you can send the ones and zeroes or else you don't get any sound.

Take subwoofers for example and the audible difference between a $100 sub, and a $600 SVS or tempest. HUGE difference between the way they sound, and the output.

I agree that it's all about balance. I just don't see myself ever paying $100 on a speaker, while paying $1,000 on a CD player.

Anyways, I hope this didn't come off as offensive because I probably didn't write a good argument. I do see your point though.
 

keir

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Messages
182
i think you already know that the source isnt as important as the speakers. people dont go out and buy and expensive cd player and then throw in whatever speakers looked prettiest at best buy. you'll have a crappy system if the speakers arent good. if you get state of the art speakers and a discman, the sound is going to be much better even though the cd player was only $40.
 

paulBAW

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Apr 18, 2003
Messages
57
Chris that's my point exactly. Ideally you want balance but so many times the First source is neglected.

How good would a system sound with a cd walkmen hooked up to B&W 801's driven by a Nad

in comparison to

LiNN cd player hookedup to a set of PSB alphas and a modest intergrated amp.

I think people tend to downplay the actual importance of the CD player.
 

jason willder

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Feb 26, 2003
Messages
76
I don't mean to downplay the importance of the source. But onec again balance comes into play. I have a HK CDR20($400) and a Yamaha DVD-S2300($1000). The Yamaha sounds much better than the HK. I would like to own an Arcam or other higher end cd player. I am sure it would sound even better. This is where the law of diminishing returns comes in. Where do you want to be on the curve, or more importantly where can you afford to be on the curve. Pick your budget and go from there. It will become obvious that a Mark Levinson cd/dac setup with JBL speakers is a waste of the cd players potential. How that for a bad/extreme example? Find balance grasshopper. Don't forget about the importance of amplification and processing.
 

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