Poll: Most impactful component

Given all the technological advances over the years, audiophiles have very different perspectives on equipment.

This likely reopens an age old debate, but which component has the most potential to improve a stereo system? Or can it?

If you could upgrade one component to take your system to the next level which one would get the investment? Speakers? DAC? Pre? Source?

Or is this the holy grail that no one can achieve?




As a manufacturer, every time we build a piece that becomes the best component since the last one. I always begin with the source because we start with piano recordings. If the piano is not right, nothing else in the chain matters to us and can alter that sound we love. Once we feel that is correct to our ears, then speakers that can reproduce that sound (most can to different degrees once we have that sound). Amplifiers next and then the preamp. We find that a decent preamp can convey the sound and then better preamps enhance the overall sound.


While cables do make a difference, people are surprised when we show them that we are using Sony interconnects from my old 1970s tape desk. You know the old gray ones with the plastic red and white ends stuck together. Since we move equipment in and out so often, I was tired of using expensive cables so we just settled on the Sony cassette deck interconnects that came in the box. Gotta love the expression on peoples faces then we show them. Go figure.


Also while the room has an impact, out listening room is brick and we use a couple of treatments thrown in there.  Not se-up properly or anything.  To us, the proper placement of the speakers is what makes an impact.  After going to shows and many dealers, we have concluded that most do not know how to properly set-up speakers.  Again our experience.

Having had so many systems in our listening room, that has been our overall experience. Happy Listening.

This hobby is very personal. Then why do we rely on equipment reviews and base our buying decisions on other’s opinions? Every system is different. It must take obsessive iterations in YOUR room and YOUR system to answer this question. That’s the lesson I’ve learned so far. Thanks.


That’s an excellent insight that many take years to realize. Others never do. For some it’s more comforting to rely on someone else’s experience or measurements than to trust their own observations, but that’s usually just a path to something that’s not very personal or particularly satisfying. We are each mostly on our own to figure out our particular puzzle. You nailed it, and will do well sticking with it because YOU are the only one you need to please in this.


There's this guy on youtube who plays in the upper high end of audio equipment. I watch him occasionally and managed to notice the DAC is one component that lasts through his high velocity testing.

If you don't stream I suppose preamps rank supreme. It seems even if one streams digital music, other components matter more?

I told myself that I would not buy anything for system until I get some real speakers in my room. I think I have the answer.

For me the most critical component is myself. Sitting back and just enjoying the music is all that is needed. Second would be the source. Even my old garage system sounds good streaming through my ifi zen blue. Can’t tell if it’s the dac, the implementation output from the zen or the clean streaming content or all the above making a chain. 

Speakers determine the character of a system. I think of  them like raising kids. I used to think that I could influence my young kids to act/live like I wanted them to. Now I realize they are who they are and are largely born that way. My mom would say that kids come into this world with their bags packed. I could only influence my kids  5 to 10%. Speakers are the same. They have a built in personality, and I can only move their sound 5 to 10% with system and cable changes. I was on a "more resolution" kick for several decades. That led to speaker choices of B&W 801 matrix, and Wilson Sasha 2s. I spent forever and lots of  $ trying to move their personality to a less harsh more musical sound with components and cables. I then bought Rockport Cygnus Speakers and I love their inherent  sound. Component matching is easy now as I am adding components that complement the speakers sound, not ones that try and muffle or change a sound character I hear as too bright. The lesson I learned is that the speaker is the primary determinate of your system's sound, so I spend as much or more than I should on my speakers.  My caveat is that these impressions are from one set of ears, in my room, with my components, your milage my vary.