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Speakers or amplifier?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Arkless Electronics, Feb 5, 2020.

  1. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    A post from a fishie in another thread made me think this could be an interesting debate...

    Which is the more important to the overall sound quality? Speakers (and cartridge) or amplification?

  2. mattgbell

    mattgbell Help the elderly and unwell!

    Obviously speakers, but wouldn't the question be more meaningful if 'more important' were specified more precisely?

    For instance, what is a sensible rule of thumb for dividing one's budget between amplification and speakers?
  3. Ali T

    Ali T pfm Member

    The room. :D
  4. Eyebroughty

    Eyebroughty JohnC

    I have four pairs of speakers and they give the biggest difference to the sound than any of the current amps I have.
    So my opinion is speakers are more important.
  5. wainwj

    wainwj pfm Member

    In my experience, speakers. Hands down.
  6. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    Speaker and room, you cannot possibly separate them.
    Brian S, Ali T, Cereal Killer and 2 others like this.
  7. Tw99

    Tw99 source last

    Speaker + room combination. "Source last" is the correct mantra for digital systems today, you can build a perfect (to all intents and purposes) digital source for no more than £200.
    booja30 and marshanp like this.
  8. chartz

    chartz pfm Member

    Yes. Speakers all the way for me. Of course, they have to fit your room.
    Then the rest.
  9. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    Very good question. In the old days I adhered to the flat earth policy of source first. At one point I had a mid spec LP12 feeding a Rega Brio & Castle Trent 2s. The change from Rega P2 to LP12 was absolutely massive.

    Logically if you have a high quality front end each subsequent upgrade will be more readily revealed.

    I also ran an 82/flat cap nap 90 at one point.

    Recently I have had a some ATC40's at home (active) & they have been probably the most fundamental upgrade I have done. These are set to replace a Nap250/SBLs.

    I echo earlier comments about room being a huge factor.
    Cereal Killer and jackbarron like this.
  10. marshanp

    marshanp ellipsis addict

    Well if you will use vinyl... most of the budget probably needs to go into ameliorating its inherent deficiencies.
    narabdela and Darren like this.
  11. Stunsworth

    Stunsworth pfm Member

    Speakers here too, though I think my vinyl replay system has been improved by Jez sprinkling some of his magic fairy dust over it.

    However I do think your (my?) ears adapt to what they're presented with. I went from a pair of Celestion SL6s to a pair of Musical Fidelity Reference 4s, and they were rather different to say the least.
  12. h.g.

    h.g. pfm Member

    I suspect it depends on what the user values. A brief perusal of the thread on photos of people's systems will reveal many have opted for a stack of relatively expensive electronic boxes and a turntable which then feeds some small 2 way speakers placed wherever is convenient. Sound quality in a dry technical sense is clearly not a heavily weighted factor for many that enjoy messing about with hi-fi as a hobby interest. So long as the sound quality is above the threshold where the deficiencies intrude on the enjoyment of music it seems reasonable to me.

    In fact, one of the downsides of getting used to a high sound quality in a dry technical sense is raising this threshold. I suspect it may be a factor in why so many are happy with small expensive 2 ways speakers which I continue to find a bit odd.
    booja30 and Euan like this.
  13. Whaleblue

    Whaleblue Southbound

    This, but clearly if we’re talking about speakers/amp then speakers.

    However, with my Scansonic MB-1s I thought I’d try to see if there was really all that much between my Weiss DAC 202/Perreaux 150i and a Sonos Amp.

    There, really, really is!

    Therefore, important as speakers (and room) are, you have to pay attention to the amp (and source) too. It’s more of an holistic thing than I used to believe.
  14. Joe P

    Joe P certified Buffologist / mod

    It's always been wire for me. Get the best wire money can buy.

    If you have anything left over afterward, buy some components so the wire isn't sprawled pointlessly all over your room.

    Riotvan, Moppit, realysm42 and 13 others like this.
  15. Whaleblue

    Whaleblue Southbound

    As a very recent convert to small(ish) expensive 2 way speakers I wonder what it is you find odd?
  16. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

  17. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    My own take on this, (in which I'll generalise and gloss over stuff in a big way) is nothing like as clear cut.

    IME they are responsible for different aspects of overall fidelity... but with very considerable overlap, as you would expect!

    Speakers (and cart for vinyl lovers) are largely responsible for the tonal balance, colouration/neutrality, bass extension etc and of course the way a speaker interfaces with a room has a huge effect here. In terms of potentially gross defects in sound quality speakers must be the most important then, ie if there is really boomy bass or a shouty mid from the speakers then this is going to dominate everything else...

    Assuming the use of pretty good and revealing speakers of decent neutrality and which are "happy" in the room they are in though I hear huge differences between amplifiers in terms of front to back depth, "spaciousness" and "air", separation between instruments, "texture", whether the sound is "organic" or "sterile/mechanical" which to me can make or break the overall sound quality. Power amps seem to be largely responsible for these particular differences but phono stages can sound very different from one another as well... all IMHO and YMMV of course:)

    Typically a "poor" (or even "average"?) amp will present a fairly "2D" soundstage with "pop up, shooting gallery" lateral imaging and a lack of space, air and separation. Loud sounds seem to make quieter less obvious stuff "disappear into the mix" and you are no longer aware of them.... It can sound rather "lifeless" and "grey" and attempting to get past this by increasing the volume just results in a "wall of sound" which can be quite oppressive.

    A really good amp though will create a soundstage where you feel you could walk into it and say go 10' back and 8' to the left and touch a specific instrument. That quiet acoustic guitar picking out a few simple notes very much in the background becomes really obvious in spite of all the much more dominant sounds. It doesn't stop playing when the bass, drums and synths all kick in after the quiet intro, as seemed to be the case with the less good amp.
    There is a sense of ease and effortless to the sound... it seems to "fall out of the speakers" rather than being "forced out against it's will" with the less good amp.

    And all this without any real difference between the two amps in terms of bass extension, HF extension, colouration etc which are more the speakers department.

    Hence I would say that once the speakers are good enough, and well integrated with the room (which is a huge caveat, granted) then the amp becomes just as important.
    OldSkool, realysm42, Ginger and 2 others like this.
  18. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    Convenience over ultimate quality?

    It's all about gear that fits your needs. I have a hifi room, so anything goes, you have a wife so anything doesn't ;-)
  19. wainwj

    wainwj pfm Member

  20. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    I only use scientific fairy dust from calibrated fairies:D
    torstoi, darrenyeats and Stunsworth like this.

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