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post #1 of 32 Old 06-11-2012, 04:05 PM - Thread Starter
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This is a question which I've always pondered in regards to two-channel audio. Let's assume you already have a well-treated room and plenty of enough amplification to drive your speakers. Which is more important to the sound of a system -- the source (CD player, DAC, etc.) or the speakers? What should you spend more on or place a greater budget towards?
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post #2 of 32 Old 06-11-2012, 04:23 PM
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Speakers, by a mile.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #3 of 32 Old 06-11-2012, 04:30 PM
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^^^^

by billions and billions and billions of miles.... smile.gif

apologies to dr. sagan... tongue.gif

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post #4 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 09:54 AM
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The original source, of course, is the performance combined with the microphones and other equipment used to do the recording. The whole thing can be irrevocably ruined there, and nothing is going to fix it.

The next place it can be ruined is the CD player, turntable/cartridge/ phono preamp. If the sound gets corrupted here, the amplifier and speaker will simply do a good job of reproducing the crap fed to them. garbage in; garbage out!

The amplifier can add distortion; it is an important part of the equation.

Speakers are important, but their limitations may have less to do with the sound quality than other parts of the system.

I bought some Polk RTA 12 speakers in the early 1980s, for around $1000, and these speakers sounded awful when I got them home. They sounded wonderful in the store. These were Polk's flagship top-of-the -line speakers at that time. So much for speakers being the whole thing! I had demonstrably excellent speakers and was hearing totally crappy sound.

My amplifier was the problem. I had an old Harmon-Kardon A500 tube amplifier, which pretty much sucked, as it turned out (one of Harmon-Kardon's rare design screw-ups...lol). I replaced it with a NAD 3020 amplfier (which only cost $200!) and the sound was suddenly very very good. This gave me a whole new appreciation of the difference an amplifier makes. Those who say the amplifier is of little importance need to get a bit more experience under their belt; not true!

I heard a demonstration once, at an audio show, where a top-quality CD player and amplifier ($12,000 retail) were connected to some small $400 speakers. The bass was limited, but the sound was quite wonderful.

Good speakers are a total waste of money if you don't have good components upstream, and that's where you need to spend money first. Garbage in; garbage out!

One reason that so many people don't have an appreciation of the difference amplifier quality makes is because they have never heard anything better than a mass-market HT receiver, most of which have amplifiers that really really suck!
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post #5 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 10:01 AM
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Speakers are important, but their limitations may have less to do with the sound quality than other parts of the system.
This is just wrong. By any measure (including listening, if you actually know how to compare things objectively), the sonic imperfections of speakers are orders of magnitude greater than anything else in your system (except, of course, your room).

People who sell audio gear for a living seem to want you not to know this. I guess they make more money churning electronics.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #6 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 10:29 AM
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So let's get this straight; if the sound quality has been compromised before it reaches the speakers, the speakers are somehow going to reconstruct what is missing and put it back. Lots of luck! That makes absolutely no sense at all, and it completely contradicts what I have experienced in the last 40 years.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to hook up excellent speakers to a poor amplifier/source knows what the result is; a speaker which faithfully reproduces the crap fed to it. The result, is of course, crappy sound coming out of good speakers...duhhhh.
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post #7 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 11:26 AM
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So let's get this straight; if the sound quality has been compromised before it reaches the speakers, the speakers are somehow going to reconstruct what is missing and put it back.
Wrong again. With even the cheapest digital sources and amps on the market today, the sound quality reaching the speaker terminals isn't compromised in any significant sense. Virtually all the compromising takes place between the speaker terminals and your ears.
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That makes absolutely no sense at all, and it completely contradicts what I have experienced in the last 40 years.
Experience misinterpreted is the opposite of knowledge.

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post #8 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 11:34 AM
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Pointless question. The answer is neither. Weakest link.

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post #9 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 11:36 AM
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^^^

it's not pointless at all... it's a valid question, and one that MANY do not answer correctly...

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post #10 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 11:40 AM
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Weakest link.
True, but the weakest link is always the speakers.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #11 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThumbtackJack View Post

This is a question which I've always pondered in regards to two-channel audio. Let's assume you already have a well-treated room and plenty of enough amplification to drive your speakers. Which is more important to the sound of a system -- the source (CD player, DAC, etc.) or the speakers? What should you spend more on or place a greater budget towards?

It is logically arguable that any of the common parts of audio systems are equally important, because if you do away with any of them, no tunes!

The more interesting question relates to the benefits that come from spending more than a basic amount on any of the components.

For example, source material quality is highly important to sound quality, but you usually have no choices. Except in a few cases there is only one version of the song by a certain artist, and that is that.

Looking at the music player, the situation is vastly different. You have almost an infinite number of choices, but a tremendous percentage of them sound exactly the same. Certainly, if the music player you need is a Blu Ray player and you are going to do what just about everybody does, which is to connect its HDMI output to your AVR; once you spend about $100 all of the big opportunities for sound quality differences or improvements pretty much go away.

Now, going to the AVR, there are more possibilities for sound quality variations because the AVR can be 2 channel, 5.1, or 7.1. There are options for upgrading the internal power amps with outboard amps that the cheapest AVRs don't have, or using a surround processor and separate power amps. There are choices in built-in system tuning facilities (e.g. Audessey), and etc. The cheapest receiver that sounds good at all is around $100, but you can get up to maybe a $grand or three if you start dabbling in surround processors and power amps. Some of this depends on your next choice which is...

Finally, when you get to speakers, there is a huge cost and sound quality difference between say a pair of Infinty Primus 163s all by themselves which are fine and good and about $300, and the full tilt boogey SOTA AV room deal with 7 each custom main speakers that are flat within a dB or two, have precisely controlled directivity, are clean up to 125 dB SPL, and work in combination with 4 each 18" 32 mm Xmax subwoofers, each with its own 2500 watt power amp. Figure 10-20 times the price of the little pair of 163s, but some pretty impressive upgrades in sound quality.
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post #12 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

So let's get this straight; if the sound quality has been compromised before it reaches the speakers, the speakers are somehow going to reconstruct what is missing and put it back.

Who said that?

Oh, its a straw man that you have made up?

Fact is that modern digital components, particularly when connected to the rest of the system digitally, are almost forbidden by the laws of engineering and physics from compromising sound quality as long as they do a rasoanble job of playing the media at hand. Bells, whistles, and 130 dB dynamic range DACs don't matter once you get the basics right.
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Lots of luck! That makes absolutely no sense at all,

Consider the source! It's this guy who posts under the nym "commsysman". ;-)
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and it completely contradicts what I have experienced in the last 40 years.

Do tell.

Of course the next question is - do you think that audio is such a perfectly static technology that what you experienced even just a few years ago is binding on what the rest of us experience today?

Quote:
Anyone who has had the misfortune to hook up excellent speakers to a poor amplifier/source knows what the result is; a speaker which faithfully reproduces the crap fed to it. The result, is of course, crappy sound coming out of good speakers...duhhhh.

In my travels the far more common situation is OK electronics hooked up to questionable speakers haphazardly placed in a really screwed up room. Usual explanation: WAF.

BTW, my listening rooms have resembled that from time to time.. :-(
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post #13 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 02:32 PM
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Their both important, but I would spend more money on speakers...think of it this way... since you already have the capable amplifier, would you rather have

A. $10,000 speaker with a $ 100 CD player
B. $10,000 CD player with a $100 Speakers.

Digital Sources are a lot cheaper design correctly vs speakers which require a lot more hardware

qguy spends. $2000 on speakers and uses a $29 DAC biggrin.gif
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post #14 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 04:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

The original source, of course, is the performance combined with the microphones and other equipment used to do the recording. The whole thing can be irrevocably ruined there, and nothing is going to fix it.

very very true - And this is where I'd put most of my money.
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

The next place it can be ruined is the CD player, turntable/cartridge/ phono preamp. If the sound gets corrupted here, the amplifier and speaker will simply do a good job of reproducing the crap fed to them. garbage in; garbage out!

Again - very true. Luckily most decent CD players do not corrupt the sound. A bad turntable/cartridge can both not get the best of of the media, and actually damage the media.

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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

The amplifier can add distortion; it is an important part of the equation.

true. But usually this is minimal (unless of course something is wrong with it, which sounds like might have happened to you).
And the OP asked to assume that amplification was adequate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

Speakers are important, but their limitations may have less to do with the sound quality than other parts of the system.
But they may have more to do with sound quality than anything else. In my experience, once the source and media are decent, amplification is adequate and working properly, room and speakers are where further gains can be made. YMMV

Everything I say here is my opinion. It is not my employers opinion, it is not my wife's opinion, it is not my neighbors opinion, it is My Opinion.
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post #15 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 05:55 PM
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Everything is important BUT find a speaker that you like and build the system around those speakers , i have been doing this for the last 28 years before that i owned 15 different pairs of speakers


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post #16 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

... and it completely contradicts what I have experienced in the last 40 years.
...
So you are saying that your experiences could not have possibly been misleading you all these years??? Really?
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post #17 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 07:44 PM
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An old college roommate of mine called me today from Dana Point to talk audio. Seems a buddy of his walked into his house recently, took one look at his stacked Advents, turned to him and said, "The first thing you gotta do is get rid of the Avents. They're 20 years out of date."

He asked me, "Are they that bad?" I couldn't really give him a good answer. I have no idea what the market is today, or even where to look for reviews. I explained how Stereophile is crap, but couldn't refer him to any reliable source for reviews. We talked about my systems, as I have five now in different rooms. I asked him if he liked his Advents, and he does. I told him to keep them. Maybe a bit restricted, closed in, but decent.

One thing we didn't talk about was electronics, except I told him they all sound alike. He has some Onkyo receiver, which I said was probably fine.

Funny thing. He called me back a couple hours later to ask about speaker wire. I recommended 16 gauge, maybe 12 gauge. "Do I have to buy Monster wire?" "Nope. Radio Shack is fine."

Anybody have recommendations for new speakers for him?
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post #18 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Jon Middleton View Post

Anybody have recommendations for new speakers for him?

Ascend Acoustics is located in San Clemente, 5-10 minutes from your friend in Dana Point. They have speakers available at various pricepoints and I believe they can setup a private audition. A+ in customer service as well.

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post #19 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 08:56 PM
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Anybody have recommendations for new speakers for him?
Budget?

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #20 of 32 Old 06-12-2012, 09:13 PM
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Transducers by a WIDE margin -- microphones getting it in, speakers getting it out. Modern electronics solved the problems in between a long time ago, and the rest is mostly hype made up by people with a vested interest in selling boxes (meaning manufacturers, dealers and the corrupt magazines that do their bidding). And let's not forget the gullible, of course.

Room acoustics are more important than electronics too, with the specific exception of electronics dedicated to correcting room response. Ironically,"audiophiles" denounce that kinda technology. Go figure.
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post #21 of 32 Old 06-13-2012, 08:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Middleton View Post

An old college roommate of mine called me today from Dana Point to talk audio. Seems a buddy of his walked into his house recently, took one look at his stacked Advents, turned to him and said, "The first thing you gotta do is get rid of the Avents. They're 20 years out of date."
He asked me, "Are they that bad?" I couldn't really give him a good answer. I have no idea what the market is today, or even where to look for reviews. I explained how Stereophile is crap, but couldn't refer him to any reliable source for reviews. We talked about my systems, as I have five now in different rooms. I asked him if he liked his Advents, and he does. I told him to keep them. Maybe a bit restricted, closed in, but decent.
One thing we didn't talk about was electronics, except I told him they all sound alike. He has some Onkyo receiver, which I said was probably fine.
Funny thing. He called me back a couple hours later to ask about speaker wire. I recommended 16 gauge, maybe 12 gauge. "Do I have to buy Monster wire?" "Nope. Radio Shack is fine."
Anybody have recommendations for new speakers for him?

Something from the Infinity Primus series that fits his room and budget.
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post #22 of 32 Old 06-13-2012, 09:20 AM
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Thanks. I'll relay your suggestions.
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post #23 of 32 Old 06-13-2012, 10:21 AM
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I had Paradigm Studio 60 v4 paired with a Rotel RCD-1070 player and really enjoyed it. A speaker upgrade was always on my mind until I bought a used DAC recently. The DAC is a different design than my CD player in that it uses a passive output stage and a better chip. It was the most expensive unit I've ever bought for my system (electronics-wise) but I thought I'd give it a try; if I didn't like it I'd just sell it. But I have no regrets. The detail is so much better and the best of all there is no hardness to the sound anymore. The Rotel just had a hardness which is hard to describe. Everything is there but it just doesn't sound convincing. That's why I originally opted to get much better speakers.

So, the speaker upgrade is off my list. I'm keeping the Paradigms for a long long time. The DAC made my Paradigms sound much better than I ever thought they would. There may be better speakers out there, but I'm keeping this combo for a very long time. Just thought I'd share my experience.
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post #24 of 32 Old 06-13-2012, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by qguy View Post

Their both important, but I would spend more money on speakers...think of it this way... since you already have the capable amplifier, would you rather have
A. $10,000 speaker with a $ 100 CD player
B. $10,000 CD player with a $100 Speakers.

A. $10,000 speaker with a $ 100 CD player

A. $1000 speaker with a $ 100 CD player

A. $100 speaker with a $ 100 CD player
Quote:
Digital Sources are a lot cheaper design correctly vs speakers which require a lot more hardware
a guy spends. $2000 on speakers and uses a $29 DAC biggrin.gif

Would he be able to hear the difference between $2000 speakers and $1000 speakers with a $29 DVD player?

Yes.

Would he be able to hear the difference between $29 DVD player and $1000 DVD player with a $29,000 speaker?

No.
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post #25 of 32 Old 06-14-2012, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Would he be able to hear the difference between $29 DVD player and $1000 DVD player with a $29,000 speaker?
No.

You can't just make such an absolute statement as it depends completely on which $29 and which $1000 player you are talking about.

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post #26 of 32 Old 06-14-2012, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Rutgar View Post


You can't just make such an absolute statement as it depends completely on which $29 and which $1000 player you are talking about.

It is true that there are probably some very expensive players and some very cheap players that are screwed and therefore sound different from all the rest.

Have you ever listened to, watched or bench tested a very low cost DVD player?

I have, a number of them. They can be amazingly good.

My standard of comparison was the original source materials - video and audio, as I can make my own DVD and Blu Rays.

For the record, I prefer Blu-ray players in the $100 price range.
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post #27 of 32 Old 06-14-2012, 09:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

The original source, of course, is the performance combined with the microphones and other equipment used to do the recording. The whole thing can be irrevocably ruined there, and nothing is going to fix it.

Agreed
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

The next place it can be ruined is the CD player, turntable/cartridge/ phono preamp. If the sound gets corrupted here, the amplifier and speaker will simply do a good job of reproducing the crap fed to them. garbage in; garbage out!

Possible but not likely. There are a lot of well functioning digital and analog playback devices.
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

as it turned out (one of Harmon-Kardon's rare design screw-ups...lol). I replaced it with a NAD 3020 amplfier (which only cost $200!) and the sound was suddenly very very good. This gave me a whole new appreciation of the difference an amplifier makes. Those who say the amplifier is of little importance need to get a bit more experience under their belt; not true!

The general phrase bandied about is two well/competently designed amplifiers. Your HK was not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

Good speakers are a total waste of money if you don't have good components upstream, and that's where you need to spend money first. Garbage in; garbage out!

Which doesn't mean a $2K Vincent pre-amp is the first rung of the quality ladder.

An audiophile likes to talk about how much they spent and how good it sounds.

A DIY'er likes to talk about how little they spent and how good it sounds.

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post #28 of 32 Old 06-14-2012, 10:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

The original source, of course, is the performance combined with the microphones and other equipment used to do the recording. The whole thing can be irrevocably ruined there, and nothing is going to fix it.

No question. You might include production in that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman 
Good speakers are a total waste of money if you don't have good components upstream, and that's where you need to spend money first. Garbage in; garbage out!

You'd be hard-pressed to obtain "bad" components upstream. Again (and again and again), everyone knows how to design and build electronics for high-fidelity reproduction. The problems are old, and most of the solutions are old. The one realistic barrier might be amplifier output power, which would depend on room size, desired playback levels and speaker sensitivity/impedance. But these are old issues too, and they're well understood. (And even then, please note that most amps will play very loud in most rooms with most speakers.)

As for "amplifier quality," all modern solid-state amplifiers that I know of (within their output limits) exhibit flat response, low noise and low distortion. This isn't the 1960s. Those problems were solved a long time ago. A 25-year-old Adcom GFA-555 (I used to own one) would still rock your world, provided the caps haven't dried out. It's as good as any amp made today by anybody. (Assuming 200 watts into 8 ohms is enough, of course.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman 
One reason that so many people don't have an appreciation of the difference amplifier quality makes is because they have never heard anything better than a mass-market HT receiver, most of which have amplifiers that really really suck!

I started out with receivers and moved on to integrated amplifiers, and I've had only high-power separates for about 20 years. I've heard a little bit of everything. And I know that nowadays electronics make little or no difference, with the important exceptions of amplifier power (but only sometimes) and room correction.
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post #29 of 32 Old 06-14-2012, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Rutgar View Post

Quote:
Actually, my dyslexia apparently kicked in, as I misread 'very', as 'every'. Which completely changes the context of your post. So, I deleted my non-valid reply.

As did I. No harm no foul.
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post #30 of 32 Old 06-14-2012, 11:49 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Brownstone322 View Post

You'd be hard-pressed to obtain "bad" components upstream. Again (and again and again), everyone knows how to design and build electronics for high-fidelity reproduction. The problems are old, and most of the solutions are old. The one realistic barrier might be amplifier output power, which would depend on room size, desired playback levels and speaker sensitivity/impedance. But these are old issues too, and they're well understood. (And even then, please note that most amps will play very loud in most rooms with most speakers.)
As for "amplifier quality," all modern solid-state amplifiers that I know of (within their output limits) exhibit flat response, low noise and low distortion. This isn't the 1960s. Those problems were solved a long time ago. A 25-year-old Adcom GFA-555 (I used to own one) would still rock your world, provided the caps haven't dried out. It's as good as any amp made today by anybody. (Assuming 200 watts into 8 ohms is enough, of course.)
It would help to remind where commsysman is coming from: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1308127/best-ss-amp-under-3k/60#post_21409928
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