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Yogui

Where to spend to get maximum audio quality on a system at a given price

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Hi,

 

Short Question:

Is there any guidelines/ideas on how to split the money spent in components to get maximum audio quality on a system at a given price.

My own system example:

10 % Desktop PC

03 % PCI to USB CARD

01 % USB Cable

33 % DAC (Stereo)

03 % XLR Cables

50 % Active Monitors (Stereo)

$5K-$30K Price Range

I did a few searches on the topic and came empty handed, but please post a link if any or your toughts/example.

 

Long Explanation:

The idea is to have a guideline in to how much to spend in a Component versus an other in a given system.

There will be too many variable behind those %, probably hundreds of disccusions about components etc.

Please, I'm trying to stay away from particular discussions, brands and models, I know it's hard :-)

I assume that everyone will pick their favourite component brand influenced by they priority's e.g. Connectivity, Design, Power etc.

 

Don't quote me on the %, I'm guessing base on my limited experience/reading (I suppose most will do the same)

(the leading 0 on the % number is just to keep the alignment)

It will change with the whole system price, so price range should be a factor. But may be wider than $5K-$20K.

Also avancement on technology of a component will tend to reduce it's % vs the rest. This should be the case of DAC vs Speaker

If you change the system design itself just list the components as a chain, e.g. Active Monitor may change for Amplifier>Cables>Speakers

 

How I think to use the guideline:

For example I'm upgrading all cables.

Currently my DAC is the best component, which is likely stay in the system longer.

So I would take the value of the DAC $6500 and apply the % in reverse to get the whole system value

Target System ($) = Component ($) / Component (%)

$6500 / 33% = $19,696

33% will be 0.33 in this case or 100 / 33

That is not my current system value, but the one I would build if I keep the DAC in place and upgrade all the other components.

 

Now, How much should I spend on my next XLR Cables to match the DAC value?

Component ($) = Target System ($) x Component (%)

XLR Cables $ = $19,696 x 3%

XLR Cables $ = $590

 

Remember it's just a guideline, to somehow "relate" our audiophile daydreaming with the pocket :-)

 

Regards, Yogui.

Chris,

If the site have some kind of user form everyone could place their current system components, that may also be an indication and work as a reference with profiles etc.

head-fi does it and I found it usefull.


Synology DS1815>Cisco Switch>CAPS Pipeline Win7/10 x64 > Foobar/AlbumPlayer/JRiver MC > ASIO > Dac: exaSound e28 > Speakers: Focal SM9 and Twins Be6 in 5.1 > HeadAmp: Woo WA22 > Cans: HD800 (Bal)/Focal Uthopia > Portable: Iphone X> Shure SE530PTH

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Hmm...

 

{[(cost of your home / by the cost of your car) x 10]/ #of kids in college}/# of ex wives or ex husbands


Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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Sorry, but quality doesn't have a formulaic value. Those who like chamber music at low volumes and favor uncolored midrange over extended bass will allocate resources quite differently from those who listen only to Joni Mitchell or Miles Davis or James Brown or the 1812 at 100+ db. If you want palpable bass, you'll buy a major sub. You may like "tube sound", or a clear and uncolored midrange, or.......

 

You may hear differences in cables, power "conditioners", etc that are critical to your pleasure. A $300 DAC may sound brittle or constricted to you compared to a $2000 DAC. Jitter may drive you batty, or it may make absolutely no difference to your perception of sound quality.

 

I'm afraid you'll have to do the legwork if you want the biggest bang for your buck. The really good news is the great fun in doing so and the satisfaction of getting what you really love.

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I wish it was as easy as a formula or set of percentages. In my experience it just doesn't work this way. One example is when you find components that out perform everything in a certain class or price level. I know people using $5k Alpha DACs as the cheapest component in the system by a long shot. Pairing the Alpha with $30k in cables is also done. There are tons of examples all over the board.


Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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While I agree with most of the responses as to formulae, I'm a firm believer in the final piece of the chain.....the speakers....the single most important part of it all. Qualities of low harmonic distortion, smooth frequency response, even power response, well constructed cabinets are expensive orders to fill. But in order for a speaker to perform as intended, it's extremely Important to identify placement limitations for the speakers such as distance and boundaries first. IMO your 50% ratio for speakers isn't too far off from what I would a lot as your including amplification. For an active solution and your budget, Genelecs would be a great place to start.

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I agree with mayhem , speakers is the only way your going to hear the quality of your source equipment, unless you can plug your cables into your head like some robot.


The Truth Is Out There

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I agree! You can spend a ton of money elsewhere, but it's unlikely that they'll have the direct, maximum impact that new speakers will.

 

Atta boy linking your website!


Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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I agree with mayhem , speakers is the only way your going to hear the quality of your source equipment, unless you can plug your cables into your head like some robot.

 

If you spend very little proportionally on the rest of your system other than speakers, then you may have a situation where you are "going to hear the quality of your source equipment," and that may not be good.

 

The only way I know how to buy audio equipment is the same way I shop for things other than audio equipment: Identify what will get you the quality you want at a price you can afford, rather than allotting strict percentages or relative costs.

 

Going through my system, I'm all over the lot on where I've spent my money:

 

MacBook Pro: I already owned it before I knew it could be used for audio. So I think it's fair to say this one was free in terms of audio-dedicated spending. Or to put it another way - I haven't gone out and looked at other front ends, in spite of recommendations for various appliances, Linux or Windows machines, C.A.P.S., etc.

 

External (music) drive: 2TB, Firewire 800, I think about $150 if I remember right.

 

Firewire cable: $30

 

USB cable between MBP and DAC: Got a deal and a discount on top of it, $180 ($100 below list).

 

DAC: Replaced my old $2000 DAC with a new $450 DAC that sounds better.

 

Cables between DAC and preamp: I'm guessing between $200-$300 for the pair when I bought them almost 20 years ago.

 

Preamp: Around $2700 new almost 20 years ago.

 

Cables between preamp and amp: If I remember right, when I bought them 10-12 years ago, they were probably $125-$150 for the pair.

 

Amp: Bought it used for around $2700.

 

Power conditioning: MIT Z-Stabilizer and Z-Strip, $400 total when I bought them used 15-20 years ago.

 

Speaker cables: Around $700 for the used pair and jumpers. Sound better than a biwired set they replaced, that cost around $500 about 20 years ago.

 

Speakers: Around $1280 about 20 years ago, plus Sound Anchors stands that raised the total to slightly over $1400 if I remember right. I've never heard anything I could reasonably afford sound better, so I've stuck with them and have no present plans to replace them.

 

So my speakers are just below 16% of the cost of my present system. And I am thinking of perhaps auditioning a couple of new DACs in the $1500 range when the maker of my current DAC comes out with its top of the line model around the end of this year or the beginning of the next, which would reduce the speakers' share to about 14% (if I think the new DAC sounds that much better than the old one).


One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> wi-fi to router -> EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Sorry Scot...

 

Since I am into this: assuming the OP meant building a system from the beginning, I'd find some speakers that turn your crank. This part shouldn't be about money, but about something that touches you, or "speaks to you" as an old timer might say. There are some speakers, Magnepan or Quad ESLs for instance, that can resolve way beyond their monetary value. Once you find speakers that you really like, spend what you want to in order to get what you can out of them. I guess I just think it is backwards looking at it from straight percentages, as it is a dynamic problem.


Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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Thanks for the replies! :-)

I forgot about my signature, so my system was there all the time anyway :-(

 

Probably the numbers make it sound hard and fixed but that’s not my intention.

May be the numbers are not that good, but otherwise I can not think of a reference.

 

From the comments and my experience I get that Speakers + Amp are a big influence in Quality (nothing new there), I suppose second by DAC.

 

To follow the example, I do read the specs of speakers, but dont mean much at all.

The final decision is done after a good listening session.

Living in Sydney, Australia makes it harder to audition my next speakers which don’t have a name yet but I hope they will keep me happy for long years.

 

May be is a good excuse to go Rocky Mountain :-)

 

So this was just an exercise to put some frame around the cost.


Synology DS1815>Cisco Switch>CAPS Pipeline Win7/10 x64 > Foobar/AlbumPlayer/JRiver MC > ASIO > Dac: exaSound e28 > Speakers: Focal SM9 and Twins Be6 in 5.1 > HeadAmp: Woo WA22 > Cans: HD800 (Bal)/Focal Uthopia > Portable: Iphone X> Shure SE530PTH

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A good pair of active monitors, some like Genelec have A/D and D/A built in, and active room correction, they have their own attenuation, just add laptop, cables you will need something fit for purpose I use Mogami, but any pro audio cable will be fine.

That's it, spend some time setting them up in your room ,if you can measure your room, that would be interesting and then you can tackle specific problems.

Keith.

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Hi Yogui

 

How about if you take parts of your gear to a shop and listen yourself whether upgrading something is worth it?

Since you live in Sydney, I suggest that you go to McLeans in Gosford (not too far away) and listen to some Magnepan speakers. To my ears at least, they sound amazing.

 

Cheers

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Thanks again,

 

Purite Audio, I did listen to some Genelec (8030 & 8040) but didnt like them and went for Focal Twins.

I may listen to higer end Genelecs, I do like that they are strong build, integrate 5.1 and DSP/room correction.

 

Danq, I will have a listen at the Magnepan.

 

I really like Monitors (no amp hanging around) and I do listen at Near field (1mt) from them.

I plan to integrate 5.1 later on.

 

That narrows my options, may be I should give up the monitors type and have an amp

 

I definetly have to go arround and listen to more systems to make an opinion.


Synology DS1815>Cisco Switch>CAPS Pipeline Win7/10 x64 > Foobar/AlbumPlayer/JRiver MC > ASIO > Dac: exaSound e28 > Speakers: Focal SM9 and Twins Be6 in 5.1 > HeadAmp: Woo WA22 > Cans: HD800 (Bal)/Focal Uthopia > Portable: Iphone X> Shure SE530PTH

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Living in Sydney, Australia makes it harder to audition my next speakers which don’t have a name yet but I hope they will keep me happy for long years.

 

There's quite a few good shops in Sydney that will spend time with you. Len Wallis, Advance Audio etc or jump on Stereonet for more domestic flavour.

 

My spending: speakers = 1 amp's cost = 2 x cables = 3 x DAC. Skip the preamp. Put the $ into amps :)

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Yogui,

 

Please ensure that you make an allowance for the listening room itself. Room acoustics are very important if you want to get the best from your investment. For a relatively small outlay and, assuming you have a laptop/notebook, you can use the excellent software REW. It is available from Home Theater Shack (free, I think).

 

JPC

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Hi-

I agree with the idea of speakers. The best YOU like and think you can afford.

 

The active suggestion is a good one, as it is economical in the long run. You might want to look at Meridian or ATC active speakers, as they are intended more for the audiophile crowd and have a slightly different sound than the Genelecs.

 

If you want traditional speakers, find some you like that are also more efficient than average. Something with a 91-95 db rating. If you find something you like with a higher db rating, you can get a relatively low powered amp and still get plenty of volume. If you really want a desktop-nearfield system, the Magnepans are probably as good as you are going to get.


Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>RPi4 9(dietpi)>Kii Control>Audiolense DRC>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: (1) CAPS Pipeline>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Schiit Freya>Kii Three .(2) CAPS>ifi iDAC SPDIF>Kii Control.

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup. Living Room/Kitchen: RB Pi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Thanks guys! Sorry for the late reply :-)

@Jay yes i do look at the room and treatment as well as speaker placement. I got jim's get better sound book and dvd, highly recommended

@firedog ATC SM-25 look great not a single distributor in Australia has them in stock :-(

I am leaning towards the KEF LS-50 Anniversary with a classe 5.1 multichannel power amp

They are small and coaxial supposed to be best for near field

Ive listen the Magies 3.7 they are a soft beauty ideal for analog and voice. I do a lot of electro


Synology DS1815>Cisco Switch>CAPS Pipeline Win7/10 x64 > Foobar/AlbumPlayer/JRiver MC > ASIO > Dac: exaSound e28 > Speakers: Focal SM9 and Twins Be6 in 5.1 > HeadAmp: Woo WA22 > Cans: HD800 (Bal)/Focal Uthopia > Portable: Iphone X> Shure SE530PTH

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I think the first priority is finding the right speaker/amp/room combination that nails it - it doesn't have to be expensive - or it can be frighteningly expensive - but once you have found that, you can build the rest of your system around it. (as a percentage of the system really depends upon the room construction, treatment, room size, and the desired frequency extension and the technology of the transducer (a panel transducer will be inexpensive but be very demanding

 

I think that after the speaker/amp/room combo, then I think it is the source (DAC, Turntable, Tape deck, Disk player), and after that the Preamp/Volume control (if it isn't already built in to something else as is popular these days!)


--

Audio System: Mac Mini (w/Roon) -> USB -> NAD Masters M51 -> Ayre K-5xeMP -> Ayre V-5xe -> Thiel CS3.7's

 

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You can buy all the DACS, AMPS, converters, power supplies, fancy cable gimmicky but without speakers you got nothing. Like a few have already noted, invest in speakers that you can afford, and match those speakers to your equipment and music taste.


The Truth Is Out There

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Speakers, speakers, speakers . . . spend at least 70% IMHO

 

(and get the room right too ;))


Tim

 

"Songs are really just very interesting things to be doing with the air." - Tom Waits

 

Main: Custom W10/JRiver/FLAC music server | Rega DAC | Rega Brio-R | MA Bronze2

 

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You won't have an audiophile system, no matter what the electronics, without good speakers -- in my view the bare minimum is probably something that retails list for 2000$, but spending more will give much much much better sound. Buy used speakers, and used amp, and new Dac, which is where technology changing the most. If you have 12k, sopend half on speakers, but if you have 20k, you don't need to spend half on the speakers . Buy used speakers, and , again, without good speakers you won't hear nuances from cables or audirvana vs amarra, etc.


mac mini 2011, Transparent audio usb cable, bryston bda-2, hegel h300 integrated amp, audio physic virgo 25 speakers, transparent audio speaker cables interconnects and digital cables.

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