Poll

What component made the most significant improvement to your system?

Source: Turntable, Cartridge, CD player, Music Server, etc.
2 (5.4%)
Pre-amp or Amp
6 (16.2%)
Speakers
20 (54.1%)
Sub-woofer
1 (2.7%)
Wires: Interconnects, Power Cord, Filters
0 (0%)
Room Treatment
8 (21.6%)

Total Members Voted: 37

What component made the most significant improvement to your system?

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WGH

My stereo has been evolving since I was 15 years old, I'm now 71 (how the heck did that happen?) and I might have reached the point of saying "I'm done". It think all the improvements over 56 years have been incremental except one or two.

The source has improved. A DIY music server with many linear regulated power supplies beats any CD player I could afford. I still use a circa 1985 Harman Kardon T55C turntable with a Goldring 1042 cartridge. The improvements are nice but would be hard for anyone but me to hear.

Amplification has definitely improved over the years. Music emerges from the Van Alstine Fet Valve CFR and Vision Set 400 amp from a black background, great imaging with terrific dynamics and tone. But although the improvement from my previous Van Alstine electronics is very important to me, in the big picture the change would still subtle to most ears.

Wires made another subtle improvement, ZenWave Audio makes great wires, nice but not significant.

I am fortunate to have a room that does not need much room treatment plus it's a common space and not a dedicated listening room

Speakers are #2 in my list. Salk speakers are amazing, any change good or bad can be easily heard but they do require clean amplification and the more power the better. The HT2-TL are 2-way speakers that image like a small stand mounted speaker with excellent coherency but with the performance of a full range.

Finally, the #1 component that made the most significant improvement is a sub-woofer. Subs are misunderstood, they do more than low notes. They add space, the room opens up along with the ability to hear into the music. An example is when the music fades at the end of a song, the point when the tape is stopped plus all that super low level musician chatter can easily be heard. And for some strange reason mids and highs are clearer too.

What component did it for you? Not just listening from the sweet spot but the entire system. Not just in the music room but heard in other rooms too. Something your wife said "Wow".



FullRangeMan

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1- The recording
2- Source

Mortsnets

I would need to vote for all of the following: Speakers, amps, CDP, DAC, phono pre, subwoofer

At first speakers made the most improvement and I tried many different brands/models until I was satisfied.

My favorite speakers though demanded certain type or quality of amplification to sound their best.

CD playback was not enjoyable until I upgraded - the first I could tolerate was a Rega Planet.

Computer audio didn't really click for me until I got a better DAC: Halide HD and the  Schiit Modi Multibit.

A recent purchase, my Klipsch RP-600m speakers sounded good right away but adding a subwoofer really filled out the sound.

Phono preamp also made a big difference.



mcmusicman

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In Order :

#1  Qobuz and Hi Res Flacs
#2  Adding room treatments
#3  Tube Preamp
#4  Adding a second Sub and getting them correctly set up.

Honorable mentions: Using Audirvana, Bailing on the Class D experiment and going with A/B and High Capacitance to drive my Maggies.
Source and Room made most difference. Hard to limit the answer to just a single thing, like asking which step on the stairs is most needed. They all are.

Freo-1

For me, Devialet Expert integrated amps in mono (with built in DAC) made a remarkable difference. I've two systems, both with Devialet amps in mono. 


The first system is a pair of D-Premier configured to mono, which provides 500 watts per channel to a pair of large German floor standing transmission line speakers (T+A Criterion 160).  The setup is amazing sounding.  The Devialet amps sound better than any tube amps I've heard (and I have heard a LOT over the years).  I still occasionally hook up tube gear to the 160's for a different sound, and while I enjoy what they do, they don't get to the near realism level that the Devialet provides.  This is especially noticeable with large symphonic recordings, where the Devialet really shines, and the tube gear just can't quite get there.  The tube gear sounds its best with small jazz ensembles.


My second system has a pair of Devialet Expert 400's driving a pair of Dynaudio Focus 360's.  The amps provide 400 watts to the speakers, which need the high power to sound their best.  The 400's also support Speaker Active Matching (SAM), which smooths out and extends the bass of the Focus 360's to below 20 Hz, as well as a degree of safety to the speakers.  Neither system needs subwoofers.


Both systems employ Sony UBP X-1000/X-1100 series players that utilize DSEE to enhance the data stream input to the Devialet amps.  Having the DAC's built into the integrated amps eliminates extra cables and pretty much nullifies any jitter issues.   

Early B.

A few years ago, I changed to open baffle speakers and my system was totally transformed. 

Freo-1

A few years ago, I changed to open baffle speakers and my system was totally transformed.


Interesting observation.  I think room interaction is huge, and plays a major role in overall sound quality. 


As a former long term owner of large panel ESL speakers, I can attest that there are unique challenges with dipolar and bipoalr speakers.


https://hometheaterhifi.com/editorial/oped/are-open-baffle-speakers-a-flawed-technology/

SET Man

Hey!

   Hmmm... I'd have to say speaker. Speaker have the hardest job in the chain and also have to interact with the room of which can be unpredictable until you put them in the room and listen to them.

Buddy

Wind Chaser

The room itself has made the biggest difference by far. The better the room, the more potential for the system regardless of what it is.

Early B.


https://hometheaterhifi.com/editorial/oped/are-open-baffle-speakers-a-flawed-technology/

Seriously? A link from a home theater website? The author has an elementary understanding of open baffle design. He spends two paragraphs stating the obvious:

So, unless using some very specialized drivers are used in an open baffle, then yes, open baffle speaker systems are definitely flawed.

mcmusicman

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Ribbons and quasi ribbons are "Specialized by their nature". 6ft from front wall placement with suggested toe takes care of the rest.
In return, you get sound that can not be reproduced from a speaker in a box.  So yes, room is important again in this regard, it has to be big enough lol
This is one "flaw" I dearly love.

Tyson

Going to open baffle speakers was by far the biggest improvement in my system.  Treating the room was 2nd.  Agree with WGH that subs are important - I use 2 OB powered subs in my setup.  Just phenomenal. 

Freo-1

Seriously? A link from a home theater website? The author has an elementary understanding of open baffle design. He spends two paragraphs stating the obvious:

So, unless using some very specialized drivers are used in an open baffle, then yes, open baffle speaker systems are definitely flawed.


Yes, the article is valid.  It also points out advantages of the design along with the challenges. 


Found this thread that points out both strengths and challenges regarding OB design:


http://techtalk.parts-express.com/forum/tech-talk-forum/41515-so-why-don-t-people-go-with-open-baffle

JohnR

The author has an elementary understanding of open baffle design.

I'd say he has an elementary misunderstanding of open baffle design...

toocool4

For me the biggest improvement was room treatment, next was a regenerative power supply for the whole system.

S Clark

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1a.  speakers
1b.  cartridge
2.  preamp
3. room treatments
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.
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10. cables

dB Cooper

I voted speakers, but if this poll was in the format known as 'ranked choice' voting, I would have voted speakers and room. As Roy Allison used to say in his literature, "Room and speaker: One system." The only thing that is as significant is the quality of the source material ('Garbage in, garbage out') and the only control you have over that is whether to listen to a particular recording or not. Everything else takes a back seat (which is not to say they have no effect) as long as your amp has enough 'muscle' to handle your choice of speakers and listening levels in your chosen space.Transducers have the biggest problems and therefore they have the biggest effect on what you hear.

Saturn94

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I voted speakers, but if this poll was in the format known as 'ranked choice' voting, I would have voted speakers and room. As Roy Allison used to say in his literature, "Room and speaker: One system." The only thing that is as significant is the quality of the source material ('Garbage in, garbage out') and the only control you have over that is whether to listen to a particular recording or not. Everything else takes a back seat (which is not to say they have no effect) as long as your amp has enough 'muscle' to handle your choice of speakers and listening levels in your chosen space.Transducers have the biggest problems and therefore they have the biggest effect on what you hear.

+1!  :thumb:

Elizabeth

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Synergistic.. they ALL matter. BUT...
In my last round of upgrading, I have to say buying Magnepan 20.7 speakers ALLOWED many of the other later upgrades to matter. Without the speakers to start with, I doubt I would have heard the rest of the changes in the upgrades.
And naturally many prior improvements allowed me to hear how good the Magnepan speakers could be, and allowed me to see there was more to be gained.
So I chose Speakers.
After the speakers, I have to say the most interesting and unique advance was from suing Exotic wood footers and Maple /Walnut butcher blocks. As a final touch they made a great and subtle tone adjustment.
In between are the Furutech Duplex everywhere in the system. magical.
And the Marantz SA-10 which just was right for me.

Letitroll98

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Excellent posts that show a deep and abiding understanding of audio systems and acoustics among our members.  For number one it's of course the transducers because it's where the greatest error occurs, thus the greatest opportunity for improvement.  Speakers, cartridges if you have them, are all wildly non linear and whose sounds are more varied than all other components combined.  With a shout-out for the room as an addendum to the speakers as they are intimately connected.