Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby Orchids1 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:53 am

I just read an interesting article in Stereophile on the importance of power amplifier sonics and the difficulty in constructing or modifying power amplifiers to optimize a stereo system’s sound quality. This just about rounds out my list of components that experts have at one time or another identified as making an absolutely essential contribution to sound quality. Most often, opinions appear to be divided between turntables, which seems to be the UK view, and speakers, which seems to be a widely-held US opinion. However, commentators have also maintained that line preamplifiers (the “core” of a stereo system), cartridges (“more than 50% of analog sound is attributable to the cartridge”), room acoustics (which is sometimes referred to as the largest stereo component), and even interconnects and speaker cables are of vital importance to a stereo system’s sound quality.

Given the focus of this Forum, I would expect most folks to subscribe to the “garbage in, garbage out” philosophy, and would argue that the turntable or, possibly, the cartridge is the most important single stereo component. Others, I suppose, will espouse the “weakest link” theory, but it seems to me that some links are much more important than others. I, personally, believe that speakers are the most important factor contributing to the quality of a stereo system’s sound.

I thought it would be interesting to see how members rank the relative importance of individual stereo components in determining overall sound quality. Rich
Avenger (w/mods)+SS Paua, Phoenix Eagle psu/tach, Sutherland 20/20, Audionet Pre1G3, Benchmark AHB2 monos, YG Carmel 2 spkrs, JL e112 subs, Nordost/Audio Sensibilty ic, Kubla-Sonsa spkr cbl; Auralic Aries renderer, Auralic Vega dac; dedic. 20A circuits.
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby vienna acoustics » Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:25 pm

Having spent hundreds of thousands seeking for the lifelike organic true music reproduction, the sound that will always give me goosebumps regardless the time of the day and the the emotional state, I would confidently say that this article and comments is plain B.S.

Unfortunately in hifi you will get what you have paid for; and there are no shortcuts. Everything from the front end sources to preamps, power amps and speakers (of course) do matter! And it’s all about quality, engineering and implementation.

Unfortunately nothing can be isolated or prioritized, they all do matter equally!
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby tom collins » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:20 pm

OK, I'll give it a go representing folks who don't have house like money for the hobby.
I think before you spend any money, you have to decide on your priorities musically. What type of music do you primarily like? Are you looking to try and re-create live sound (live sound can be messy) or are you looking for a good sounding system to reproduce studio recordings. Listen to a lot of live music and see if you prefer lush female vocals or searing rock guitar. Go to any stereo stores you can find and listen, go to shows. When you have your priorities in order, it is time to start thinking about a system. I don't care how much you spend, it will be a compromise. Don't believe me? Go find an old beat up out of tune upright piano and strike a middle c. There is no system that will duplicate that attack, timbre and decay perfectly. So, with priorities straight, here is my suggestion.
My suggestion is to build your system around either the source or the speakers.
If the source, start with the table (or digital unit) that really turns you on and then find a cartridge that works with that table to keep the vibe going and then the amp, pre, integrated that works well with your taste and priority, finally the speakers. All components complimenting each other.
Or, reverse the process and go from speakers you love to source.
That would be the ideal world for someone with the cash or credit and desire to build a system from scratch all at once. For most of us, it is trial and error, lots of trial and lots of error.
Good luck to all in the process.
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby Mr_Putty » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:34 pm

Well stated Tom,
For me the choices were difficult. I had taken some music lessons when young, loved rock guitar, played a bit, but was always low on cash and had some building skills. I went to hi-fi stores and listened to various systems and looked for deals. I started with a very modest system of Fisher two way speakers and Dynaco tube amp. And a cheap turntable. Eventually upgraded speakers and got a more powerful receiver. Years later i really liked the Yamaha NS-1000 speakers and Yamaha B-2 amp and C-2 preamp, so i got those. I upgraded my turntable to a lowly Empire 698. It never did really make me happy but got lots of use and some modifications. Then i heard the Acoustat 2+2 speakers and loved them. They were just about of production when i could afford them. But they really sounded great, so no regrets. I still have them. I now realize I had gone the speaker-sound path, finding what i could to drive them. Eventually my system filled out with a few cassette decks and a CD player and sound processor. At that point i was really experimenting, trying to get better sound from what i had. I learned a bit of electronic design and made some kit projects on the side. I still test setups and challenge myself to make things better. If you are starting out and choose to go the “hardware route” i might also suggest splitting the system into three general compartments. (The order i preferred is 1,2,3, (shown out of numerical order)) 1. Your preferred speaker choice 3. Amp and preamp or receiver choice 2. Front end choice. This might be digital or analogue or both. And lastly, the snake oil of the choices; cables, wall outlets, power regenerators, etc.
There will probably be some other great suggestions posted. I think its reasonable to allow a few years to complete a system once you start to build one. For a given budget, i would split 1, 2, and 3 about equally.
As always, we try to help here, so post your thoughts and challenges. :D :D
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby rateourmover » Sat Oct 12, 2019 4:07 am

Rich is good at finding a fresh wasp's nest to poke a stick in to. This is a cracker.

Without going too far off thread I'd enjoy reading considered views on the relative importance of each leg on a three legged stool.
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby Optimationman » Sat Oct 12, 2019 1:36 pm

My take. Most of us have been in this hobby for sometime. I feel one of the most missed improvements to a system is the listening room. Look at photos of examples. Seems across the board, lots of nice equipment, but it appears not in the optimal set up. Of course, the quality of equipment counts, all of it. One additional issue, high quality connection between that expensive equipment. I do modifications to some of my equipment, including replacing switches. Quality signal path and that switch is in it. I also believe in contact enhancing products.
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby vienna acoustics » Sat Oct 12, 2019 3:06 pm

Contact enhancers, are the number one in the snake oil lists internationally, as well as cables lifters and resonance management devices. Also cables from some point and beyond is pure snake oil.
Only some days ago I had for testing some speakers cables of 14,000 euro, silver made with special geometry etc.
Amplifiers:Gryphon Pandora,Gryphon Mephisto Stereo,Gryphon Legato Legacy
Speakers;Tidal Contriva G2 SE, VPI Avenger Reference/FatBoy12” Gimbal&Fatboy 12” unip/LPI Stillpoints,Lyra Etna, Airtight Opus 1DigitalAurenderN10, EMM DA2, Torus AVR
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby Orchids1 » Sat Oct 12, 2019 3:49 pm

Rate, Nice to hear from you. I was worried that you had signed off for good. Are you referring to a three legged stool metaphorically or literally. If the former, It’s easy to say which leg is the least important at my age. All the best, Rich
Avenger (w/mods)+SS Paua, Phoenix Eagle psu/tach, Sutherland 20/20, Audionet Pre1G3, Benchmark AHB2 monos, YG Carmel 2 spkrs, JL e112 subs, Nordost/Audio Sensibilty ic, Kubla-Sonsa spkr cbl; Auralic Aries renderer, Auralic Vega dac; dedic. 20A circuits.
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby rateourmover » Sat Oct 12, 2019 4:54 pm

Rate, Nice to hear from you. I was worried that you had signed off for good. Are you referring to a three legged stool metaphorically or literally. If the former, It’s easy to say which leg is the least important at my age. All the best, Rich


You may have that the round way wrong. Anyway - Now Now, this is a family show.

As for the thread - it's potentially a Good One. It'll be genuinely interesting to read about the different journeys travelled.

My tuppenth is - enthusiastic people with OK ears will select pretty damn good price-performance kit. Coming at it from the other direction - they are most likely (a guess) to underestimate their listening room and spend lots of money and time preferentially improving all else. Could be an expensive error of prioritisation.

Many years ago I wrote to HiFi Plus UK and suggested a rather good upgrade was cupping your hands behind your ears to simulate bat's ears. Try it ! Product opportunities beckon. Carbon fibre strap-on bat ears and a tuned brass resonance bowl lashed to your forehead. You read it here first.
SuperScoutMstrRef. Terracone feet on Symposium Ultra. Mystic Mat, 3belts, Lyra Skala, Dorian mono, MusicMaker III, Ortofon A-95. Hovland HP200P & Radia. Living Voice OBX-R3 speakers. All Audience wiring loom inc. AdeptResponse AR8 (yes-8..)
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Re: Relative Importance of Stereo Components

Postby Golear » Sat Oct 12, 2019 9:41 pm

I think the original question is an example of the XY Problem.

The question behind "What is the relative importance of stereo components" is: "What proportion of the budget for a sound system should I spend on each part: cartridge, tonearm, turntable, phono cable, phono stage, preamp, interconnect, power amp, speaker cable, speakers, room treatment, accessories (like 2 dimes, Stillpoints, record cleaning, etc.)".

My answer to the second question is: All things in balance. No point spending $20,000 on the cartridge unless the rest of your gear is at a very high level. And "at a very high level" does not correlate to "Price". And you're not going to get astounding performance out of that $20,000 cartridge unless you're prepared to change the RTH for every LP. This is the amazing fun of the hobby. No rules. You have to work hard and listen hard - there's no avoiding that. What you get out of it is directly proportional to the sweat and tears you put into it.

Earlier today, I heard a Doshi phono stage. It was incredible! I loved the sound. It had one killer feature: you could adjust the loading on the fly, and in very small increments. And you can set two settings, and switch between them via the remote control. OMG! What's the difference between 200 Ohms and 300 Ohms? Plenty!

So for me, I'd say the most important thing is: an MC phono stage that adjust the loading on the fly, with a remote that allows switching between two loading levels. Start there. :-)

(You can even establish the "best" loading for each LP, write it down somewhere (or slip a sheet of paper in the LP sleeve) and set it before playing that LP. But you've already set the RTH, by independent means, right?)
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