Originally Posted by jedimindcontrol
I don't want to take this thread off topic but I have always felt that the source unit can have a tremendous effect on overall sound quality. I have upgraded my player 3 times in the last 2 years and noticed a significant difference in SQ between each unit.
I do not buy into the need for high-priced wire and cables. And really, a good amplifier should not effect SQ at all. In theory, an amp should only be amplifying the source signal...not adding any noticeable sound characteristics, right? We all know this is rarely, if ever, the truth but it always makes me chuckle when I read a review of some mega-dollar amp and there is an endless amount of industry adjectives abut the "sound" of the amp...smooth, liquid, open, sweet, dynamic, detailed, airy, blah, blah, blah... sounds more like its coloring the overall sound not merely amplifying it!
IMO speakers will be the defining part of the equation in sound quality with source units and the preamp closely behind. And as always, everyones ears hear it all differently.
Off topic it is. IMHO, the speaker is the definitive component that determines your sound output, with the AMP closely behind due to its pairing with the speakers. The reason I say this is because all speakers have certain frequency and phase responses and impedance that peaks/troughs at different frequencies. And the ability of an amplifier to output the required current/voltages at those frequencies is crucial of the overall output.
For example, if the speaker has a huge impedance at 1500Hz and the amplifier's current output troughs at that frequency, then chances are your system's frequency response will take a nose dive around 1500Hz. This is why amplifier matching with speakers is the most crucial step in the sound system (and room treatment).
In terms of source unit, CD players with decent DAC should be outputting very similar quality analog signals if not identical. I am fairly confident in this because I am very familiar with the design process of the DAC used in those players. The biggest variant is the output stage inside the CD player after the DAC, which involves some sort of amplifications that could distort DAC outputs.
But vinyl is a different story because it is purely analog thus the signal path will see a lot of variants and the preamp is acting as first stage amplifier for the phono input. Otherwise preamp should be a simple switch (thus the move towards integrated amps). Just my $0.02.
BTW, OP, there's a pair of Primare I20 integrated amp and CD player on Audiogon for about $800 USD.