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What is King when building a system

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  • What is King when building a system

    For me it has turned out to be the speakers. I have always made decisions on changes based on how my speakers sound. What is it for you? An excellent source? Room limitations? I am currently building a system with PBN Speaker prototypes I was given by Peter for doing some marketing work and a Rega RP6 my wife gave me for my birthday. You will be damn sure that it will be the best Sounding RP6 when I am done.

  • #2
    speakers, source, preamp
    Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mono) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects


    • #3
      Room, source, and proper hierarchical signal path. Learned many years ago to never send a signal into a more revealing component. Upstream components should always be better, more revealing, and play into equal or less revealing components or you'll just better hear the limitations of your system. That doesn't mean by price, just by quality.
      Steve Lefkowicz
      Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback
      Analog 1: Linn LP12 (MOSE/Hercules II), Ittok, Dynavector 10X5 MK.II Low, iPhono2/iPowerX; Analog 2: Pro-Ject RPM-1 Carbon, Talisman S, iFi iPhono.
      Digital: Geekom Mini PC (i5, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, JRiver Media Center 29, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz Studio), iFi NEO iDSD, iFi iUSB3, iPurifier2, Audioquest Jitterbug FMJ.
      Electronics: Jolida Fusion (fully upgraded) line-stage
      ​, DIY passive line-stage, Antique Sound Labs MG-SI15DT-S, Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso
      Speakers: Tekton Perfect SET 15, Tekton Lore, Magneplaner .7
      Interconnects: Morrow Audio MA1, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl, Audioquest Evergreen
      Speaker cables: WyWyres Diamond, Morrow Audio SP4, Vermouth Audio Red Velvet, Audioquest Type 5
      Digital cables: Aural Symphonics USB, iFi Gemini twin-head USB.
      Accessories: Sound Organization turntable shelf, Mondo racks, Pangea Audio Vulcan rack, Pi Audio Group Über BUSS, Monster HTS2000 power conditioner, Kinetronics anti-static brush, Pro-Ject VC-S record cleaner, Spin Clean record cleaner.
      Headphones: Schiit Valhalla amp, Burson Conductor Virtuoso Amp, Meze Audio 99 Classic and 99 Neo, Beyerdynamic DT770Pro 600 ohm, 1More Triple Driver Over Ear, 1More Triple Driver IEM


      • Gusf
        Gusf commented
        Editing a comment
        Excellent point. But doesn't your speakers play a large part in the final result? I mean isn't all equipment flawed in some way.

      • Steve Lefkowicz
        Steve Lefkowicz commented
        Editing a comment
        Of course, but if the issues in your source or electronics aren't resolved first, improving your speakers may sound worse, if they now show up the flaws upstream. I was shocked how much better some ELAC F5 speakers I have ($550) sounded when I put a $3500 Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso in front of them. Had a similar case with my Tekton Lores ($999) when I put a $6000 Modwright integrated amp in the system.
        I've always looked to start with the source, and work downstream.
        I see this not being addressed in the headphone world a lot. People buy expensive headphones then try match up with inadequate amplification. I was shocked (really) to hear good my old Beyer DT770 headphones sounded with a $4500 Eddie Current amp or a $1600 ampsandsound Kenzie Headphone Amp (that had a proper 600 ohm connection).
        Last edited by Steve Lefkowicz; 02-13-2017, 12:06 PM.

    • #4
      Best source you can afford is constant but for best results, Room and the best speakers for that room and amplification best for those speakers.


      • Rob
        Rob commented
        Editing a comment

    • #5
      The loudspeakers are the most important. The loudspeakers then determine what kind of amplification. I highly recommend loudspeakers with built-in powered sub-woofers, The main amplifiers have an easier job driving the mid to high frequencies.

      Having a great loudspeaker and good electronics is better than the opposite.

      Then preamplifier, it is the most important of the electronics. The system will never be better than the preamp. To save money, you can always go with an integrated amp.

      Then sources. You can get very good digital for the money these days, and that technology continues to evolve. Today's state-of-the-art digital devices are tomorrows bargains on Audiogon. You can upgrade sources over time.

      I prefer vinyl, but you need to know what you are doing. The amount you invest in LP playback should mirror your investment in LP's. If you have a great collection...

      As your system approaches greatness, everything becomes important. Small things matter. Acoustics, power, resonance control, equipment stands, interconnects, speaker cables, power cables, total system integration and set-up...

      Expensive/high cost components and speakers don't guarantee high performance, but the best usually are very expensive.
      Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
      Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
      Analog 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable w/ 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Silver Cube Phono Preamp
      Analog 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable w/ 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
      Analog 3: VPI Avenger Reference Rim Drive Turntable w/ 12" 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Verismo Phono Cartridge
      Analog 4: Second 12" Fatboy arm on Avenger with Ortofon 2M Mono SE Cartridge
      Analog 5: Studer A810 R2R tape w/ Bridge Console. Using built-in tape preamp
      Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
      Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
      A/C Power: Extensive System Upgrades, Sub-panel w/hard-wired power cables, and IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
      Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM


      • #6
        Room, speakers, The rest just falls into place based on the size of your room.

        A bad room will pretty much nullify the true capability of your speakers
        Kef 201/2, Pass xa30.5, W4S STP-SE, Manley Chinook, VPI Classic, Dynavector DV20x2L, ExaSound e32, Acoustic Zen cables. (Office): Vincent SP331 Mkll, Quicksilver Pre, Lumin D1, (Ken Lau Signiture Edition PSU), Bryston BCD-1, Vapor Audio Breeze, WooAudio W6se,Questyle Audio CMA800R LCD-3,HD800s, HD600, Mr Speaker Ether C Flow,


        • #7
          I will certainly agree that the room is ultimately the most important, but for the sake of this exercise I'll stick to gear only.

          I've always been of the opinion that the source is king as I strongly believe in the GIGO mantra. However, after reading some of the above, and the many other threads I've followed and participated in on other boards, I'm not 100% sure. There are strong cases being made for speakers first, and I can't in good conscience make a case against those opinions. Follow whatever beliefs you have on the subject and you're golden IMO.

          In my current situation, given the setup that I have, my focus will be (when funds allow) to continue on improving the source. I don't know if all the things I would like to do will ever happen, but I'll try to do as much as I can. My reason for continuing to focus on the source is that I'm very happy with my amplification and speakers, and I know source improvements will yield substantial audible results. Better amplification and speakers would improve everything as well, but since I'm already more than pleased, why bother going down that road. IMO, the money is better spent in smaller steps with the source.
          Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables


          • #8
            The Room is a given be it treated or untreated.

            I would say you need a overall plan of where you would like to end up I would put the most time effort into the source then follow on down to the speakers last.

            Their are some good thoughts in the posts above .

            If money is a factor it kind of comes down to how much Bass can you live without.

            Want to cheat source head phone amp head phones


            • #9
              Very difficult question to answer provided you aren't using very old equipment. I would have said the source is paramount. I have always said you can't hear what isn't at the beginning of the audio chain regardless of what equipment follows the source. OTOH having spent some money on platforms, footers, and a rack earlier this year, these changes have made obvious to me other shortcomings in my system. So I guess I am saying the foundation might be first, unless you already have a great foundation. Then you might look elsewhere.i haven't experimented with my room and of course those results could change my mind.
              Turntable: TW Acustic TT with Ref motor & controller; Tri-Planar Arm; Ortofon Windfeld-Ti Cartridge, Harmonix-Combak platter mat & weight; PS Audio Stellar Phono Preamp; KLAudio Ultrasonic Record Cleaner.
              Digital: Bluesound Vault-2 Music Server & Streamer
              Amplification: VTL 6.5 preamp Series II, Pass Labs 150.8 Amp
              Loudspeakers: Piega C711 Loudspeakers
              Isolation: Symposium Osiris Rack; Symposium Platforms and Roller Blocks and grade 2.5 Balls
              Misc: Acoustic Revive RR-888 Low Frequency Pulse Generator, Synergistic Research 12 UEF SE Line Conditioner, Level 3 HC AC Cord and Level 3 Atmosphere power cords, Synergistic Carbon fiber wall plates, Synergistic Research Orange Outlet, Furutech NCF Booster Braces, synergistic Research Galileo and Atmosphere X Euphoria Level 3 Balanced ICs, Synergistic Research Euphoria Level 3 Speaker Cables, Synergistic Research Cable Risers.

              Sennheiser HDV 650 Headphone Amp; Sennheiser HD800s Headphones.


              • #10
                I think the better question is what isn't King when building a system and even then it's not a simple answer. Your budget and priorities, size of the room and purpose of the system, i.e. living room, party time, or dedicated listening environment will play a part in what matters most in the system you're putting together and with more resolution the more little things matter. For myself the main systems are based on the electronics and we built the systems starting from the amps. But depending on the situation and client we build around what's the best component in an existing system and/or what fits the budget and application but always with an eye towards a sensible future upgrade path.

                Last edited by david k; 09-18-2016, 02:34 PM.
                Manufacturer: American Sound Turntables and The Nothing Racks
                Special Sales: van den Hul Cartridges
                Industry Representation: Lamm, Kharma OLS Speakers, Ortofon, ZYX, Jensen Transformers

                Unique Items: Vintage Horn Speakers


                • #11
                  Gentlemen, thank you for your thoughtful and insightful responses. I realize my question was over simplified. Several years ago I settled on the first GAMUT L3's and I spent a lot of time on trying to find the right amps and pre amps to make them sing. Settled on BAT tubed gear and eventually worked my way up to a Basis 2800, Vector3 with aTransfiguration Orpheus cartridge. Finally, I fine tuned with cabling. The speakers were the only constant. When I was done, I realized, for me, the building is the most enjoyable part of the hobby. Reason's for this is probably best suited in a different forum πŸ˜€.

                  Sold everything except my vinyl and stepped away for a few years. Now I am back at it with a much simpler system and enjoying my music more than ever.

                  I love this forum for it's members vast knowledge and experience. I enjoy learning about the state of the art products.


                  • Garth
                    Garth commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Simple or the Kiss method (Keep It Simple Stupid) has a lot of merit.
                    I have a second system in the house TT Phono set amp and speakers

                    The Speakers are Loth X one speaker paper cone no cross over amp is a KR phono ayre tt sota arm smeV cartridge a shelter

                    It is simple and has pure sound even with the dac and cd Orpheus dac and acoustic arts transport.

                    My wife uses it to practice with for her clarinet the first clarinet for the New Jersey symphony was using it with her on Friday he was impressed with the idea of it as a practice tool.

                    The less there is in a system the less to go wrong I have done bi amping and subs and about every thing else when it will not play or play right simple starts to look good.

                    but if you want Bass or slam it is not simple and Kiss turns into (Knights In Satans Service). Thats what the rock band stands for by that name.

                  • Gusf
                    Gusf commented
                    Editing a comment
                    You are absolutely right. I am living in the midrange right now. My system is in the living room were 40hz is keeping all parties happy.πŸ˜„

                    I do most of my listening off axis.

                • #12
                  In building a system I always say find speakers you love first because they have the biggest differences between them.

                  Then compare as many amplifiers as you can to find the one that makes them sing when matched to it.

                  Preamp and source are next. Cables, ICs and cords to fine tune and bring out the best in the system.

                  Room treatment and speaker positioning to optimize. And of course vibration control and AC treatment.
                  Thiel 7.2s, Manley NeoClassic 250s, Wadia 850, MIT Oracle V3 speaker cables, MIT MI-350 Oracle interconnects, Black Diamond Racing Shelves and Cones in a dedicated room with ASC Tube Traps, Room Tunes and 3 X 20 amp dedicated circuits.


                  • #13
                    Originally posted by david k View Post
                    I think the better question is what isn't King when building a system and even then it's not a simple answer. Your budget and priorities, size of the room and purpose of the system, i.e. living room, party time, or dedicated listening environment will play a part in what matters most in the system you're putting together and with more resolution the more little things matter. For myself the main systems are based on the electronics and we built the systems starting from the amps. But depending on the situation and client we build around what's the best component in an existing system and/or what fits the budget and application but always with an eye towards a sensible future upgrade path.

                    I'm kinda on the same page with David and Johnny.

                    What I might add to David. First, it's not an all or none effect. One gradually improves pieces at a time. I think one needs to try a find the best room they can from the beginning (other than having a custom built room) rather than trying to fix after the fact. So avoiding square rooms (you can't believe how many audiophiles are saddled with this issue), minimizing reflective surfaces, etc. Then one can really optimize speaker placement with judicious use of some inexpensive room Rx (almost all of us can always get a little more out of our system by tweaking speaker placement). Later on down the road, audiophiles can work on some more sophisticated, expensive room treatments.

                    At that point, one can think of building the system. I'm definitely on the GIGO page. All good speakers will do is show how bad the source is. But others get good results with getting the best speakers they can afford and then upgrading the system around that speaker.

                    I think the one thing that I've learned over the years is not to be dogmatic; there are many ways to achieve good results with an audio system.
                    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                    Senior Editor,

                    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
                    -Goldmund Telos 440 and 1000 Nextgen mono amps
                    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
                    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, Phasemation PP-500 cartridges
                    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Kubala-Sosna, Audience FrontRow; Audience FrontRow, Genesis Advanced Technologies , Goldmund and Ensemble Power Cords
                    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.3+ platforms.


                    • #14
                      I'll go with speakers first. A decent set of speakers will sound good with virtually any amplification capable of driving those speakers. A flawed design will not overcome it's flaws no matter what is used upstream.

                      Over the years I've found myself far more sensitive to speaker performance than the electronics.


                      • mkuller
                        mkuller commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I agree with starting with the speakers and working backward - from the biggest differences to the least. Amplification I would rate second because different amplifiers will make the speakers sound different.

                    • #15
                      I'm always beating the drum for audio room infrastructure: room+acoustics, clean power on demand, vibration isolation (rack and platforms). You won't know what you've paid for until you address these items.

                      Maybe not the king but certainly the king-maker.


                      • Garth
                        Garth commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I agree but how to treat a room is a lot harder than you would think it is at lest for me a good thread on this would be nice and yes I know first reflection point first then corners then I am lost