Originally Posted by ThumbtackJack
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.