Cost break down of hifi system

Hello, just curious on what you guys recommend for the cost breakdown of a hifi system ? I have heard a lot about 15%-20% for cables and roughly 30% on speakers. Right now I am in the middle of building my new system. I currently have pass labs xp-12 demo model and an x250.8 NIB from Reno Hifi. I got a hell of a deal at $13500 for both. I also got a very light demo pair of Dynaudio contour 60i for 25% off. Based off what I have given, could you guys give me a breakdown on what I should spend on source and cables ? I was leaning at the Cardas cyngus cables. For dacs I was looking at the all in one lumin t3 or an aurender n200 with the chord qutest dac. I am also debating which audioquest niagra to get, the 1200 or 3000 ? Seems the me the 1200 does everything.  I’m open to suggestions so please tell me if I am off track. I wanna get it right the first time. 


Dont waste your money on cables and dacs theyre all the same and you will save thousands by doing that.

This is a good question and I would approach it differently. Instead of $$$ what should you make your priority? Speaker placement is much more important than speaker cost and its free. I would priortize as follows if it was my decision:

1) The room

2) Speaker and speaker placement

3) Power

4) IC's

5) Components

If you get the items at the top wrong the money you spend at the bottom won't save you. You get them right and you can save $$$$ on the items at the bottom IMO.

As for starting with the room I like for help setting it up.

 I currently have pass labs xp-12.... an x250.8... pair of Dynaudio contour 60i...

I call this a: What do you think of my new wife thread. It's a bit too late for that question but let me continue...

I wanna get it right the first time. 

In order to get the right cabling, you need to know what you have first. Have you listened to this system in your room yet? Have you optimized speaker placement. If not you need to do that and find what direction you need to go. More bass, more mids, or more highs? Then we can make suggestions. 

@russ69 I am building it now. The pre amp, amp, and speakers are still in their boxes. I’m trying to get an overall on opinions as I go along. I knew I wanted pass labs so I got that first, then the speakers. 

I like @kota1 answer but would amend as follows:

1) The room

2) Speaker, speaker placement

3) Preamplifier and equally DAC/source

4) Amplifier (matched to speakers, of course)

5) interconnects

6) power

The pre amp, amp, and speakers are still in their boxes.

Get them out and start setting them up, Use lamp cord and 3-dollar cables if you have to. Listening is the only way you can progress your installation. 

@fuzztone I agree.  Spend 80% of your budget on the nicest cables you can afford and buy components to match.

I thought Kenjit was traveling the globe or had been captured by Interpol. Oh well...

Everything is important, but ultimately it's the speakers that give voice to the music.

I would return the XP-12 and get a Hifi Rose SC150.

It's got all the preamp you need and a fine DAC.

It plays local without a network via touchscreen and BT remote.

Cables tone controls?

No, just use lamp cord and 3-dollar Amazon connections like all the big statement systems use. LOL. 

+1 to the recommendations of @hilde45

Speakers and room are a system unto themselves, and the positions of the speakers and listener(s) in the room are part of that. As are any acoustic treatments you add -- and their importance in many rooms is hard to overstate. One cannot get really good sound in many domestic rooms without attention to acoustics. And no, I don’t mean a few shelves of CDs at random depths.

I have not found much value in expensive cables. IME, they act as fixed tone controls. Yet, if you have wide musical tastes, you will find that the tonal balance of recordings varies quite a bit, so cables that work best with recording A aren’t best with B. Some people get on a cycle of gear replacement. If that variation in tonal balance bothers you (as it does me), I suggest considering a good equalizer like the Schiit Loki Max. For the price of one pair of fancy interconnects, you will have flexibility and control. It’s amazing how quickly the desire to change equipment can diminish once you have that control.

Post removed 

P.S. About cables. I found that upgrading to better versions of my Analysis Plus IC's and speaker cables allowed a clearer, more transparent signal through. (I did not spend a bundle on them and I got them used.) Because I have a tube dac, preamp, and amp, there are many ways to tweak the sound down the line from that nice, clear source. Indeed, based on things @decooney and @djones51 and others have argued, I'm currently trying a non-tube DAC (the Schiit). For me, the objective is to retain the tube sound I like by flavoring what is initially the clearest signal from streamer and DAC. Keeping various forms of noise away from those sources is a concomitant requirement, of course.

I found that I keep speakers longer than anything else.  So I would invest in a pair of speaker you really like even if you can't afford the level of electronics and cabling to support.  Buy the best used electronics you can with the remaining cash.  You will most likely begin upgrading as your learn about your speakers and room.  For me, cables are the last thing to really spend on.  Don't get me wrong cables can move your sound in a lot of directions but you can buy pretty good cables also on the used market until you really know what you are looking for.  Resale is potential is probably more important than specific items at your budget while you figure out what you really want.  

2 Dedicated 20A circuits, and audiophile power receptacles (Cardas, PS Audio, Furutech, Oyaide)

Solid DAC (Denafrips Pontus II, Holo Audio Spring 3 or May DAC)

Great value interconnect cables (Morrow Audio, Cullen Cables, Lavri Cables, DH Labs)

Great value signal cables USB, Ethernet, I2S HDMI: Supra Cables, Wireworld, Audioquest, Oyaide, DH Labs

Great components that will leave plenty of money for the streamer of your choice

If you need a CD transport (no DAC) Audiolab 6000CDT, amazing transport for $600

As others mentioned, It its worth mocking up the system and getting it up/running even if you have to try some loaner library cables from TheCableCo. If you plan to keep the XP12 longer term, while the Cardas Cygnus is not end-game for some Pass amp owners, you could do a lot worse if you must buy cables now. With your current investment, I’d do loaners, and listen for a while. Get a first baseline. Those DA-C 60i speakers have the separate mid and soft dome tweeter, so results really depends on what kind of room your are putting this in, are there soft or hard floors, hard walls, furniture all around or no furniture, reflections?, etc.

Some sources/DACs can be a crapshoot, and can be totally overrated, too costly, imo. Do you have anyone near you to borrow, or buy on on 60-day return policy. What if the system sounds too bright or too soft. Likely more bright with that preamp/amp pairing, however those speakers will soften it some You need that first baseline test to start from - - to figure out where things are "at". Same others are recommending above, otherwise you can get stuck with some stuff you may not want to keep if you go big-bang-all-at-once. Or, unless you want to over spend a lot more $... Reno HiFi knows of the proven stuff and you’ll pay notably more for it.

Room, speakers, network dac, amp, power cables, interconnects.

The better your system is, the more you will need to spend on quality cables to get the best sq you can out of it. If you can’t hear the difference between cables, then what are you doing in this hobby?

Also, if you are building a system for digital streaming, get a good network dac, you can eliminate the preamp and streamer. My network dac is directly connected to my amp (sold my McIntosh preamp and phono preamp when I sold all my analog gear) and my dac is a Roon endpoint. Got rid of my Auralic music server a few years ago.

1) The room

2) Speaker and speaker placement

3) Power

4) IC's

5) Components

The OP is kind “already invested” in the speakers and amp.

I would probably #2 ahead of #1, but that also opens up room correction amps and active speakers.
Active speakers do cut out a large portion of #3, #4, and #5… but that is a bit late now.

I think of cables/interconnects as a more-or-less fixed cost, not as a percentage of the total system cost.  Blue Jeans Cables sells  Canare 4S11 speaker cables, terminated with locking bananas, for $5.90/foot. This might be 10% of a starter system, or less than 1% of your end game system.  

If you think you can hear a difference between the Canare 4S11 and something many times more expensive, well, maybe you can. I suspect all you're really hearing is a difference in gain resulting from a change in length, gauge, or termination quality,  Granted, a system may sound better (not just louder) at higher volumes. Usually, there's an app (or a knob) for that. 


Put most of your money into the speakers! Audio electronics have been transparent to the source for several decades. Paying more just gets you more bling - no real sonic improvements. I suggest getting a pair of Genelec active monitors and ditching the amp. Expensive yes - but you could spend that much just on an amp and have nowhere near the sonic quality of the Genelec's!

Given that you have speakers and amplification. The next step is to decide on the source components. What media will you be using?

I would then get some budget cables and set the system up. Run it for awhile and get to know it. Adjustments inroom treatment, cables, and power (in that order) can be made therafter.

Forgot to add: Source components should be commensuate with amplifiecation and speakers which are excellent IMO.


Did you mean you are actually constructing your room right now or just prepping an existing room? If you are building a new room from scratch like I did I HIGHLY recommend consulting an acoustician first ! If your room is smaller like mine a professional can design it so it can punch way above its weight. Im so glad I went this route. Jeff at hdacoustics is excellent and very reasonable for the design cost. You won’t be sorry. Good luck ! 

After the room I would do speakers then components then cables etc 

@ronboco , Jeff used to be with Auralex and those products are not only amazing but a great value. I have the diffusors made from bamboo around my room, wonderful. Your listening room looks great, is that rockwool under those panels? Do you use any diffusors? Thanks


Thank you. I do have Rockwool in the ceiling joists and all walls. The ceiling also has 2 layers of 1/4 inch pegboard and 2inch rigid fiberglass. The walls behind the speakers just have 1/4 inch pegboard on the studs. The other three walls have pegboard and one layer of 2 inch rigid. My room would be considered heavily damped with few reflections so no diffusers. I’m mostly hearing the direct sound from the speakers. Jeff said no additional panels would be necessary and he was correct. I’m very happy with the performance overall. 

@hilde45 -- You are not the first person I consider sensible who has found that changing cables was an improvement.

Since now my (balanced) interconnects are 7 m long and the speaker cables 50 cm, it is too expensive to try many different ICs, and the few times I’ve swapped speaker cables, it has not made a noticeable difference.

In the past, I tried other (fancy) cables, and though they sounded different, it wasn’t always clear that the difference was an improvement.

Being retired now, I have to be prudent. It’s a blessing that I haven’t heard significant returns from what might be a significant cash sink.


Building the room was a lot of work but well worth it. Happy listening!



My two cents, based upon my finally paying attention, recently, to cabling on my 3 systems: 

1) Though my experience tells me cables can make a significant difference, just the thought of having to experiment with multiple different cables sucks the life out of me.  I am therefore willing to rely on reviews, reputation and word-of-mouth (Audiogon?) to make my decisions.

2) The amount I am willing to spend on cables should be correlated with the amount I spend on cables.

3) I hate the idea of buying cables from a company whose “flagship” products are multiples of what I’m willing to spend.  I’d like to feel like whatever product I choose is at or near the top of that company’s product line, no matter how little I spend.

With those principles, I’ve made the following decisions over the last several months:

1) Budget System (Triode Corp integrated amp, Acoustic Zen Adagio Jr. speakers, Okto DAC/streamer, Pro-ject turntable) - QED interconnects and speaker cables, with Anticables power cords.

2) Vintage(y) System (Leben integrated amp and phono pre, restored/modified Altec Santiagos, restored/modified Thorens TD-124) - Triode Wire Labs interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords.

3) Big Rig (Synthesis integrated amp and phono pre, Audio Note AN-Es, Gold Note DAC/streamer, restored/modified Garrard 401) - Audio Note Lexus speaker cable, Straightwire power cords, interconnects TBD (will be experimenting with Triode Wire Labs)

Btw, for my vintage system, I too was considering the Cardas Clear Cygnus line, but I experienced profound sticker shock at what the entire loom would cost.  Hence my decision to go with Triode Wire Labs, for a savings of close to $2000!!

Oops, principle #2 was supposed to amount i’m willing to spend on cables should be correlated with amt i spend on system..

@hilde45 I was leaning at the Cardas cyngus. I have talked to a few people that say they would do Cardas clear but that it’s a lot to just start with in my opinion. To top it off I have not had a chance to here the system yet. I was also looking at the dragon cables from moon audio as a place to start, that and they are cheaper then the Cardas cyngus too. I don’t wanna go crazy out the gate but I also don’t want to feel like the cables don’t bring my system to its potential. 

@mdalton I do agree with you on experimenting and wanting to read/ask options on audiogon. You can get a real sense of what works just by asking like minded people. I was looking at moon audio which have good feedback and are cheaper then Cardas Cygnus. I did find a dealer that will do 20% off on the Cygnus so that’s the route I will likely take for now. A 2m pair of speaker cable is $1200 and 1m pair of interconnects xlr is 680. I am going to stick with the power cords that came with my pass labs for now. 

It is interesting how lop-sided some of the posts are. it is true that each part of a system has its own 'weight' in the final outcome, but none are the end game either. 

 In one post though it was the truth as to what your mood might be for music one day and not as much the next. That might mean that where a certain cable or speaker set up decision leans towards one side of the musical spectrum more than another. I come across this in my system too, and most often the difference may depend on whether I listen to vinyl or CD. For me, they are not the same so there is one way to determine what source I will choose. Aside from that, using acoustic panels are another thing that I decide to use or not. This has way more to do with the trouble of putting the panels in place and then taking them down before the wife gets home.  

Quite honestly, I wouldn't worry too much about cost breakdown on source and cables.  Quite a few responses above centered on what the OP didn't ask, and didn't address what was asked.

To save on money and heartache, I would suggest that you borrow midrange audioquest, cardas, or other nice cables and try them in your home.  Dealers have demo cables lying around that they are trying to get rid of.  Ask to borrow some for a short period and try them. 

Get a baseline on what is acceptable in your system and go from there.  The upgrade wheel will always be turning, so, borrow first.

as far as sources are concerned.  What exactly are you interested in? 

CD player/transport?



I read a few of the earlier responses and got frustrated that many didn't address your original concern and didn't read the others, so apologies if I missed responses to these concerns.

Many good dealers will let you take equipment home (with a credit card deposit on file) so you can "demo" equipment in your house.  Find a dealer that will do that.  

Determine what "source" you are concerned with and borrow one.  A mid level Aurender, etc. and try it at home.  

When you get to the point of "I'm happy with this sound", good.  Live with it for awhile and then borrow equipment slightly better quality and try it in your home system.  See (hear) if you can determine a significant enough difference to "justify" purchasing.

One thing to be aware of.  Match levels first before listening to new (different) equipment in your system.  Simple gain level differences can be mistakenly perceived as better or worse.

I always listen at a certain level with the original equipment.  Then I Place a test CD or album on a play a 1 khz tone, use a inexpensive sound level meter and gauge the level at the listening position.  Then I swap in the new piece of equipment (one piece at a time), play the same test tone and adjust the level to match the previous level before seriously listening.

Determining a particular costs percentages is in my opinion not accurate.  Find pieces you may be interested in (expensive and mid priced and inexpensive) swap it into your system (one piece at a time), level match and listen.  listen to music you are well familiar with that is revealing.  Then ask yourself, is it better, worse or the same as what I have and does it justify me coming out of pocket for a change.  

The sound quality actually determines the price point, not the other way around.


@4krowme I agree with you 100%. It goes one way and back to another. Everyone  has something that works for them and others will totally put it down. I just wanted a general thought of what everyone’s options are in which way to go. 

@minorl Thanks for the advice, I think that’s the best advice I have been given. I already have my pre amp, amp, and speakers. Now I have been trying to decide on cables and an all on one dac and streamer. Although few have told me it’s good to get a streamer and a dac but I can upgrade the dac later when technology improves. I really like the idea of the aurender n200 with a sep dac. Another option is the lumin t3 but technology changes so fast it’s like owning a computer for a few years then moving on to something else. I do feel like the Cardas cyngus is a good place to start for cables to, I can get them at a decent discount. It would be around 2600 on cyngus cables which is not to bad. 

minorl Thanks for the advice, I think that’s the best advice I have been given.

yes @minorl  presented a good case.

First, listen to a lot of systems and think about what you are hearing.

1) Speakers first, at least 90dB; high sensitivity will give you a wider and generally less expensive choice of amps and preamps.

2) Get tubes in the line somewhere, preamp or amp. (1) will help to do that, and right now you can get better sound for less with tubes right (in the future who knows).

3) Then DAC, essential, but don't over-spend, because you will want to change it up in the future. Check out the DAC chips in the gear you are considering buying; this is not the only thing that is important, but it's a good place to start to make choices. Used stuff is a good way to go.

4) Then preamp, read all the reviews and understand them. It does not have to be expensive but it has to sound right ot you. Also, separates will let you improve your system in the future in stages and at less cost.. Sorry, but you will not get it right the first time out.

5) Then amp and source.

6) After you have a working system you can do room treatment. Just hang rockwool where needed and experiment--very cheap. Then later make it look nice with panels, etc. and kiss the wife.

7) Finally, now you can think about cables; not before. They matter, but not until you have the best system you can afford in place, and you can listen long and hard to it. The choice partly depends on your choice of components.

8) Listen hard and deeply over a long time until you can really hear into the music. At that time you will probably change something in the system. Do not kick yourself. Take your time and enjoy the road to excellence.  

@shtr74sims I do feel like the Cardas cyngus is a good place to start for cables to, I can get them at a decent discount. It would be around 2600 on cyngus cables which is not to bad...


If it helps to share, I was fortunate to do some early factory beta-eval testing with Cardas on Cygnus, full loom Interconnects too. I was comparing old vs. new designs on different SS and Tube amplifier applications.  

As a 30+ year Cardas owner I’ve enjoyed the different designs. Cygnus will do fine for you particularly with your pre/amp setup. Not having to step up to Clear or Beyond, this is a safe start. You can resale Cygnus later no problem. If you must, just go up on the ICs between your DAC to your preamp. Run the rest with Cygnus, you’ll be fine. All-Cygnus 4-conductor design will be a safe bet.

A popular combo with your pre / amp setup, and good w/your speakers imo. The newer designs are more clear than older Cardas golden designs. You won’t need to second guess later if you proceed.

@4krowme "Aside from that, using acoustic panels are another thing that I decide to use or not. This has way more to do with the trouble of putting the panels in place and then taking them down before the wife gets home"

Now that, is funny!!! 🤣.  

Pick up a pair of these speaker cables to compare to others you audition.




 I used a bit of psychology on my wife when we first got married. I made sure to have the most unacceptable hi-fi system imaginable in the living room. Unfinished speakers, system set up in one corner of the room diagonally, etc. It WAS ugly. Soon after the first reaction, I told her that Better looking speakers might help, and I built solid wood speakers that represented my best woodworking skills. Anyway, it went on like this, and now after years of training, my wife accepts the system as it is now, on the long wall, with beautiful speakers and even a rack that she helped pick out. Decide the battle that you need to win to be happy, and then plan it like it were the most important thing you do. Manipulation, Yes I suppose it is. Tried the other methods in years past and lost every time.

Some things are a given, room size and speaker treatment, and both are usually encumbered by a number of unchangeable factors, to state the obvious.  Let’s just say do the best you can following some basic principles you can study up on elsewhere.

That said, pretty much like others have said where order is +/- individual experience.

1) speakers

2) amplification in terms of enough power for #1 to suit your needs 

3) quality of source regardless of type, disc player, streamer, TT, etc.

4) cables/ICs. Refuse to get sucked into this dialogue but suffice it to say it ain’t lamp cord or cheap ICs.  I’ve had a blast in the new old stock department with MIT and won’t ever bother changing those.  
5) Lastly, rigging a separate electric source and inexpensive Furman condition took the noise floor to zero (my ears weighted 😎)

The cost of all this depends on your ammo magazine.  If I was earning Bryce Harper/Juan Soto coinage, It would be a blast but again for my ear, not really necessary for hifi enjoyment.