The thing about analog vinyl playback is that you gotta get the record moving around in a circle, and you need something to attach the device on that converts the vibrations carved into the record groove to electrical energy. There's no redundancy. It's a system -- a complex, precision-engineered series of mechanical parts that adds up to a single device. It can't be done with any fewer parts. Depending on the money you spend and the precision with which you put the stuff together, it works pretty well, too.
To get the absolute "best" sound when spending more than $100K I think you can curate one with some trial and error.
To get the "best" sound for less than $100K you can’t beat an all in one active speaker system like the KEF-LS60, the YG Vantage 3 Live or the Dynaudio Focus series.
better is better
simplicity/complexity is a red herring in and of itself
all else equal, simpler is better, but of course, all else is never ever equal....
(powered speakers aren't better, aren't simpler -- the complexity is all there, it is just tucked inside the speaker cabinet... they do friggin somersaults to jam all that stuff in there... ) ... let's use our common sense, ok?
I simplify unvoluntarily my system ( i lost my house/dedicated speakers/room ) because now the amplifier for my headphone is plugged in the wall near the main electrical frame, nothing else...it is a very low noise amplifier...
My headphone experience now will destruct most speakers in non dedicated room and even some in dedicated room...I know because i build one dedicated room few years ago......
The soundfield has never been better...And anyway my AKG K340 goes under 30 hertz and give electrostatic highs with 3-D sounfield...
But i felt a great improvement by reducing all the system connections to one plug near the main electrical panel... my dac is battery powered... The high floor noise level decrease a lot with no power cord and no more purifier etc...
Generally as simple as possible, but not simpler. Not using a preamp typically significantly reduces the sound quality. Typically separate preamp and amps sound better than integrated… but you have to be carefull how you compare.
Two box preamps, monoblocks amps sound better than stereo amps. But adding non-essential functions and boxes is not better.
Overall “straight wire” systems, with the shortest possible path and least functions (no tone controls, no extra manipulation) sound best.
Contrary to some audiophile popular belief, separate components don't usually sound better but they give you more options. You can swap out the various components seeking that mythical nirvana of sound, but you also stand a great chance of noise with more connections and cables (as an aside, cable manufacturers just love separates).
Simple systems will sound as good as any separate sourced system if the quality is similar.
Simple does not automatically equate to less components. I prefer components that don't have a features/functions that I don't need.
One of the reasons that I selected the Denafrips Ares II DAC that I have is because it is only a DAC. My Pathos Classic One MkIII is also a pretty basic integrated amplifier that is a preamplifier and amplifier with separate power supplies in a chassis.
Simple can be bettered by "better." There's no magic formula, and a simple setup is still actually a lot of parts in a box...is that source really simple or simply less parts? A preamp can ad substance or not depending on its design and how the user implements it...power supplies, cables, humidity...
1st thought, re K.I.S.S.:
IF (a 'biggie') one is lucky or stumbles well, minimalism ( Hi, @mahgister ... ;)...) is, or ought to be, the preference/reference we should strive for.
Happy 4th; take the 5th if the other 5th gets you in trouble....
"I didn't mean to blow up your manse, Vance! Really!" 😆
For me, a preamplifier is vital. Not only does it serve as my "switch" for different sources (analog vs. digital sources) but it provides a small amount of gain and, aside from the speakers, does the most to define the sound of the system. The wrong pre can make your system sound flat or thin or too chunky.
While I agree at more cable is the enemy I think that in every situation trade offs must be made. For me, Monoblocks amplifiers allow me to have very short runs of speaker cable, only about 3 feet. I'm willing to have longer interconnects as my experience has shown longer interconnect where the signal is low gain, does less damage to the sound than long speaker cables where the signal is highly amplified. The interconnects between my other comments are very short.
I'd also encourage you to think about the fact that while sure, the wire connecting one component to another light be longer than one on the inside of an integrated or more complex component, it's almost always better shielded and of higher quality wire.
Food for thought.
Nelson Pass, and Steve Deckert have inspired me to go down the road of elegant simplicity. Good source, quality, straightforward, connections, well designed minimalist amplifiers, and even simple speakers, baffleless, no crossover Lii audio F15‘s. it has all yielded excellent sound. Thank you to them, and all of you who buck the trend toward complication and voodoo componentry.
After 50 year of all separates, I bought my first integrated amp. The Hegel H390, has a DAC and a streamer in it as well as Bluetooth and Airplay 2. I was very pleased with the sound, But I ended up adding an external streamer and DAC within a few months. All in all, I still have 2 fewer pieces in my system and am very happy with the sound.
All the best.
KISS yes! Except if steaming. Router, switch, cabeling, PSU and filtering fall under you get what you pay for. I yarded out a massive integrated amp and have streamer going into amp using leedh volume control. That’s a thrilling KISS. Oh momma.
Streamer support has more parts but on Amp side less is more.
In my experience simplicity is a relative term in this hobby. It depends on one’s budget and the size of their listening room. There’s no question that today’s digital streaming of audio is extremely convenient and can be accomplished cost effectively. However, there will always be those who want better quality audio play back systems.
For instance, the use of turntables in audio systems remains one of the most subjective topics in this hobby. I remember in the 1980’s when the compact disc debuted. Digital playback quickly surpassed the turntable for the general listening public.
However, Hi-End audio manufacturers refused to jump on the bandwagon, staying with analogue playback. Yet, by the early 1990s it became clear that CD was not just a fad and that these boutique audio companies were missing out on revenue from this new playback technology.
Suddenly, Hi-End audio companies such as Krell, Mark Levinson, Naim and Linn began to manufacture their own CD players. Interestingly enough, during this time the Hi-End audio user was not ready to let go of their turntable.
In fact sales of mid to expensively priced turntables began to increase, and continue to do so more than three decades later. In this same vein, the death of the compact disc in recent years has also turned out to be greatly exaggerated.
And a number of companies continue to manufacture both mid and expensively priced CD players, catering to those who have maintained large CD collections.
The same can be said for those with large vinyl collections.
I remember back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when solid state audio became the newest technology of choice. Many audio enthusiasts were quick to get rid of their tube based electronics in favor of this newer technology. The Japanese saw this as an opportunity to buy up much of the excellent American made tube electronics which were then shipped overseas.
Of course, like the turntable and CD player, tube electronics have again become quite popular in the modern day.
If I have learned anything in this hobby over the past 50 years is that it is cyclical and the hype train used to drive audio sales will always exist. Sometimes it ushers in important new developments in this great hobby, while at others it’s just the latest flavor of the month.
If you’ve put together an audio system that you are satisfied with enjoy it.
As for my analogue system, I settled on an old Systemdek IIX with a period correct NOS Jelco 370 tonearm. It serves as the foundation for the remaining albums that I have and IMHO easily sets a benchmark in regard to the law of diminishing returns.
++cd318 I am down to a streamer (not an expensive one) my 8 year old integrated Hegel unit and a Cambridge CD player that is seldom used. I rely on Qobuz and a pretty extensive collection of digital FLAC files. When I hit retirement age and budget I looked for and found a level of playback that makes me happy at a logical price. Gone are the days of unit and speaker swapping, budget hits and unhappiness. My hearing is at about 70%. Might be a blessing in disguise. Sit back and enjoy the music. Save your money for the finer things like Islay single malts.
The pendulum swings both ways. Just like corporations decide to "centralize" and then decide to "decentralize".
Fashion comes and goes, only to return again and again.
The trend at this point seems to me to be simpler is better. Hard to argue against that. That pendulum will swing back the other way as well.
Many people take great pride in their very complex systems. All you need to do is look at the system pages to see that.
Well said @jjss49 better is indeed better. There are certain functions I prefer to keep separate, streamer and Dac, preamp and amp. So far it's worked for me and the sound quality is fantastic to my ears.
@barts point(s) well-taken... as a long time educator it has been fun to watch methodological and ideological pendulums swing back and forth. What is evident, though, is more programs, more tasks, more responsibilities, and more fine-grained lesson planning and administrative oversight certainly is counter-productive... more more more rarely means better.
And, there are some simple things that have maintained exactly due to their simplicity for centuries. The most effective martial arts fighting techniques is one example; fancy is for losers, in the ring. A sword. The wheel. The pendulum does not swing, for those things. The pendulum itself is simple.
There is a universality and beauty to simplicity. Yes, fancy-complex can have it's place, though, too... but it's more complicated and difficult to live with long-term day to day in the home, though admittedly some people just prefer to live that way.
I have not found that I've enjoyed having more a more complex home audio system brought me more joy than a simple one. The complex versions have been more burdensome.
The shorter and cleaner the signal path, the cleaner and clearer the sound. If an integrated amp has the same quality preamp circuitry as separates, eliminating the cable between a preamp and amp will improve the sound. Same with a phono stage. The problem is, this is not usually the case. But sometimes it is. My system sounded better with a separate phono stage, despite the extra cable, because the phono stage was of much higher quality than that in the integrated amp, which is very good.
Same thing with features. Adding more circuitry for features like bass and treble controls and balance adds to the circuit and creates noise. I suspect adding a DAC or streamer creates noice to the amp/preamp circuitry as well.
Having a tonearm cable not directly into the cartridge adds another point of distortion. Separate headshells make changing cartridges convenient, but one cannot possibly argue that another point of signal transfer doesn't add distortion. Everything is a tradeoff.
My integrated amp has a remote for volume and mute only. I made the tradeoff when I was too lazy to get off the chair to adjust the volume. Since I only listen to vinyl, no need to be able to switch sources, which thankfully the amp's remote can't perform. And sure as heck don't turn the amp's power off with a remote.
Einstein said it best, “everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
That reminded me of Colin Chapman’s memorable quote about his Lotus racing cars,
’Simplify, then add lightness.’
Gone are the days of unit and speaker swapping, budget hits and unhappiness. My hearing is at about 70%. Might be a blessing in disguise. Sit back and enjoy the music. Save your money for the finer things like Islay single malts.
It’s one of life’s real pleasures to have some surplus money to put towards other avenues of enjoyment.
It’s also very important to have things to look forward to, no matter how trivial they may seem to others.
I went through a deeply grim period of not being able to find much to look forward to.
Losing loved ones is inevitable but we can choose to mourn the dead or learn to love them and cherish their memories.
Either way, and the difficulty of making that choice cannot be overestimated, not the difficulty of climbing out of that seemingly bottomless pit, but we have to move on, that’s the nature of life.
That’s the deal we were born into.
Thankfully nowadays I find I’ve got plenty of stuff to listen to (mainly podcasts/audiobooks), stuff to read (Bill Naughton, Jordan/Pamela Rooke), things to watch (tons of stuff on YouTube - check out the Fishing Party and Shakespeare or Bust if you like 70s British dramas).
One of the better things about getting older is that your conversation skills, especially listening skills, tend to improve along with the accumulation of life’s experiences.
However, I’ve yet to try an Islay single malt but I bet it’s a far cry from most of the harsh stuff sold in supermarkets.
Something else to look forward to.
If you are trying for better then dump the integrated and go for separates; mono blocks and a preamplifier. Concerning the DAC & Steaming portion of your set up the same principle applies, go for separates. Yes get ride of equalizers or similar pieces of hardware you place between the main components and go for quality wire and you don't need to spend a fortune on that either. Isolate your components from vibration, treat the room for sound using panels specifically design to absorb or reflect and place them correctly. Do not dump all your money into one component and cheap out on the others, try to keep them approximately equal in quality and work on making sure they all play nicely together, system synergy is very important. Place your speakers ideally not where they are less obtrusive in the room.
My DIY amps are the most complicated machines I’ve ever built - much more so than the DIY turntable and tonearm. Very high parts count. They are unquestionably better than anything else I’ve tried or heard, and that most definitely includes simple amps.
The ’simplest’ amp is just a modular power supply, an op-amp driver, and an output transistor. All the complexity is hidden. The simplest discrete transistor circuits are hopelessly bad.
@wolf_garcia said it well, "Simple can be bettered by "better.""
this is silly and ignorant... there is such a thing as practical experience, as many folks here are lifelong music lovers and audiophiles committed to achieving beautifully reproduced music in their homes -- you pursue this for a lifetime, with a passion, you learn what you like, and how to assemble a system that pleases you -- in this light the notion simplicity or complexity for its own sake is far down the list of priorities
After being mystified by some of the people contributing to these topics, this one,by far, makes more sense than all others I've read. I've loved music for more than 60 years and not equipment. Simpler is better. My dad dissuaded me from getting a ten speed bike as a boy. His simple reasoning was "there's more to go wrong". Words to live by, yesterday, today and in the future. If only we could convince the auto industry to follow suit. AB
Simpler in terms of absence of unnecessary cabling, I/O and PSU interference: definitely. Also, high efficiency speakers with low powered tube amps can do wonderful things
Complexity however is a must in the current development stage of digital: cleaning up the Ethernet signal through cascading reclocking switches as well as reclocking the USB connection tend to yield sizeable results as does reclocking DACs where design allows it.
Equally, cleaning up the power supplies via filters, transformers and conditioners as well as fuses, connectors and cables is 101 for good sound.
Finally: given modern dacs, many systems don‘t benefit from a separate pre, so simple direct to amp can be better.
My dad dissuaded me from getting a ten speed bike as a boy.
Smooth bearings and a light frame never failed to bring out the joy of cycling.
Some of those ridiculously heavy 20 speed monstrosities with no mudguards were little more than exercises in pure marketing designed to entrap the unwary and inexperienced.
"Don't weep because they are gone, rejoice because they were here."
Yes, it is never easy, but that is indeed the inevitability of life.
Sadly, it is so.
There are such terrible things in life that we are obliged to accept.
Whether we do or do not doesn't seem to matter in the end, the
clock will continue to tick for us regardless
Not even Auden's line:
"The sound of distant thunder at a picnic"
should stop the picnic.
Ultimately there might even be some kind of liberation in the acceptance of the inevitable.