Speakers Don’t Matter As Much As We Think They Do?

When discussing how best to invest money into your system, it’s very common to hear people say, “Spend as much as you can afford on speakers, and then worry about the other gear because speakers have the largest effect on the sound.”

Now it’s never a bad idea to have good speakers and while I somewhat followed that advice early on, as my system has evolved it seems that I am not currently following that advice, and yet I am getting absolutely fantastic sound. For example as a percentage of my total system cost, my speakers cost 15%. If you include the subwoofers, that price is about 35%.

Early on I was worried I would outgrow my speakers and I’d hit their limit which would restrict sonic improvement potential as I upgraded other gear but that hasn’t been the case. With each component upgrade, things keep sounding better and better. The upper limit to speakers’ potential seems to be a lot higher than previously thought as I continue to improve upon the signal I send them and continue to improve system synergy. If you send a really high quality signal to a pair of speakers and get synergy right, they will reward you in spades and punch well above their apparent weight class.

One thing that may be working in my favor is that I’ve had these speakers since the early days of building my system so literally everything down to the last cable has been tuned to work in synergy with these speakers. Had I upgraded my speakers mid way through, I would have undone a lot of the work that went into the system in terms of synergy.

Has anyone else had a similar experience with their speakers? Does anyone have any extreme percentages in terms of speaker cost to system cost like 5% or 95% and what has been your experience?

I go through speakers really, really fast. I would completely agree that speakers will make the biggest change in sound in a system.  I also agree that system synergy, and also very important, speakers being the right size for your listening room, have a huge impact on overall sound quality.  
I am just now learning though that you can’t judge a speaker based on drivers used.  The Totem Arro’s that I am currently enjoying the heck out of, slayed 3 other, larger, more expensive speakers with better built, higher quality  drivers in them.  The Arros couple to my room perfectly and have a magic or aura to their sound.

I have around $4500 in my entire set-up including room treatments and I have $400 in the Arros.  They displaced 3 other pairs of speakers that were in the $1000-$1200 range used.

Speakers make a huge difference in sound, its just that you may not prefer the more expensive speakers or the higher quality drivers soundwise. 
You're arbitrarily picking speakers but could just as well be saying the same about the turntable, cartridge, or amp. All those one guy or another thinks is so important. The reality is no one is any more important than any other. The really killer good sound always comes from raising everything up to around the same level. Buying new speakers while using the plastic patch cords and rubber power cords that came in the box is a waste. Upgrading to a better power cord or speaker cable while using the crap fuse that came in the box is a waste. Buying anything before cleaning all the connections and cleaning up the spiders nest of cables behind the rack. shows you just don't understand what's going on. 

I could go on and on. Where you put the speakers matters more than which speakers, so why anyone obsesses and fixates on the speakers themselves is beyond me. Yet they do. 

Only thing you said that concerns me is " tuned to work in synergy with these speakers" because if by that you mean fixing or hiding speaker weaknesses by picking components with a different set of weaknesses then you can wind up with a system that works great only until you really do want to change the speakers, and then you are in a pickle. But if you did what you should do and select everything based on its own excellence and then you are surprised "the speakers sound better" well then congratulations, that's the way its done.
I've had a pair of Linn Helix 2 speakers, with the ku-stone stands, since about 2005 (the speakers themselves date to the mid 1990s).  They've been good enough that I haven't wanted to change them out, until I moved to a townhouse that they just can't load well enough.  So I'm finally replacing them with a pair of Monitor Audio Gold 300s. 

I think you hit on the critical aspect - the need to build a system that works well together.  I remember the days when the reductio ad absurdum folks suggested (tongue in cheek, one hopes!) that the best way to build a system was with a Linn LP-12 and an AM radio and then to upgrade from there.  That's obviously absurd. 

But I do generally agree with the concept that the better your source(s), the higher the ceiling for the sound of a system.  We used to do a demo where we'd play PSB 300 speakers ($300/pair in the mid-1990s; stand mounts) with a Naim CDS-82-250 and then dare people to guess how much they cost - most guessed around 3k, thinking they were the ProAc Response 2.  The challenge I now have is upgrading my source - it's an  Exposure 3010S2 CD player, which is terrific, but it's going to be very difficult/expensive to upgrade it in a meaningful way that still synergizes with the rest of my system. 

At the other extreme, I don't think it makes sense to put, say, a $8k speaker with a NAD or Denon or Marantz or whatever receiver - I think you're going to leave a LOT of that speaker's performance in the box, so to speak. 
I think the bad advice is to over-buy a speaker you can't drive adequately from the get-go. For instance, I've seen a lot of balking at the suggestion one spend $2k on power for a $500 pair of Elac Uni-Fi's. But there's nothing worse than a pair of under-driven speakers. And those little suckers positively sing with a decent amount of current behind them, as Elac demonstrates at show after show.

I don't think I was ever really happy with my system until I finally settled on speakers I knew I loved (Thiel) and dedicated building around them. There was some trial and error (amp & cable combos), but when I finally nailed it - well I haven't bought anything new (except cartridges) for 15 years. I also have no doubt had I kept my old Maggies or B&W's I'd have arrived at a totally different solution. I find it interesting that a lot of people in the Thiel owner forum arrived at similar amplification choices (BAT)! Not a coincidence.

The other key component, probably more than anything you "plug in" is the room. We see so many people with tile floors, bare walls, speakers right up against the wall flanking a TV with a turntable about 10" from one of the speakers. Youtube is full of people showing off their systems like this. One I saw the guy literally had the entire rear wall mirrored. Even on YT/tablet you could hear how awful it was!

I've just moved to a new place for the second time in a year. I was about to downsize my speakers in the townhouse. Now, I've got to decide where I'm setting up, and spend my budget to get the room right before I buy anything new.

All speakers are capable of the changes the OP discusses. He has done nothing exceptional. To actually move up, he must seek a superior transducer. 

millercarbon stated, "Where you put the speakers matters more than which speakers, so why anyone obsesses and fixates on the speakers themselves is beyond me. Yet they do." 

As stated, that comment disregards fundamental performance differences between speaker models, speaker brands and genres of speakers. I disagree entirely.  :(

IMO a major reason for the divergence of viewpoints which tends to exist on this question is that for a given level of sonic quality the cost of a speaker tends to be dramatically affected by two things: (1) The maximum volume the speaker can cleanly produce, and (2) The deep bass extension it can provide. And different listeners tend to have very different requirements and preferences in those regards.

For example, over the years I’ve seen many members here comment that the peaks of the music they listen to are never louder than perhaps 90 db or so at their listening position, and in many cases a good deal less than that. On the other hand, though, quite a few classical symphonic recordings in my collection, that have been well engineered with little or no dynamic compression, can produce peak SPLs at my 12 foot listening distance in the area of 100 to 105 db, **while being listened to at average levels in the mid-70s.** Which means that each speaker must be able to cleanly produce levels approaching 110 db at the usual 1 meter measuring distance. Many speakers, certainly including most small speakers, simply cannot handle that kind of dynamic range while also providing quality sonics.

And of course different listeners will tend to have differing preferences regarding deep bass extension, and regarding the use of subwoofers to supplement it.

So, yes, many listeners will be happy with speakers that represent a relatively small percentage of total system cost. While others would find those speakers incapable of handling the dynamic peaks of some of their recordings, at their preferred listening volumes, and/or incapable of providing the deep bass extension they prefer. And for a given level of sonic quality, in the latter case preferred speakers will tend to represent a much greater percentage of system cost than in the former case.



I do believe that being happy with any speaker is the room. Too often listeners hear a great experience at a dealer, come home, don’t have it, and then are sold power cables, amps, etc, to try and reach the nirvana which was always the room to begin with.

A good room is transformative, and can make a lot of speakers sound really great. A mediocre or poor sounding room requires you to chase synergy forever.

In general, given the same speaker type, I'll take a mediocre speaker and a great room than the opposite.
Erik is not correct. Speakers are factory tuned so that they will suit a wide variety of users preferences but its impossible to satisfy everybody. 

Change is happening and we are seeing more dsp based monitors that do enable custom tuning by the user with EQ. 

It wont be long before custom tuning is the norm and folks will start to realize that that eccentric person called kenjit was right all along. 
I think Erik is exactly correct - if the speaker/room combination does not work, the speaker is not going to sound its best. 

Room correction is far from the norm even today, and effective tuning remains the province of very expensive equipment.  Can it work?  Yes - I heard a Linn demonstration that was nothing short of remarkable.  But we're a long way from being able to reasonably tune (however it's done) speakers to where the room is irrelevant. 
Overheard at an audio showroom, with a finely tuned system of all Linn front end Klimax/Exakt/Katalyst streamer, DACs, amplification and Linn speakers: “I hate Linn electronics but these Linn speakers sound amazing!...”
It wont be long before custom tuning is the norm and folks will start to realize that that eccentric person called kenjit was right all along.

Kenjit is stuck in the halcyon dreams of the 1980s.

DSP alone cannot fix a bad room. Floyd Toole, among many experts, agree on this. A room with good acoustics lends itself very well to EQ though.



"folks will start to realize that that eccentric person called kenjit was right all along."

Don't hold your breath, you do know what happens to one who refers to themselves in the third person, don't you?
Speakers and how they interact with the room is the most important, having enough power is second.  If the differences between electronics are comparable to differences between speakers, you've got some very distorted electronics.  They do make a difference, but it shouldn't be a huge one unless they're intentionally designed to have a very particular character.
“ If you send a really high quality signal to a pair of speakers and get synergy right, they will reward you in spades and punch well above their apparent weight class.”  So true, for every weight class.  You just don’t know what you’re missing until you go heavyweight.  Being stuck in a situation where the room and placement is what it is doesn’t mean upgrading isn’t worth it, it just isn’t AS worth it.
Ya just gotta get some Maggies and go from there, as I always say...no listening fatigue as from electrostatics or boxes or (yikes!) horns, which belong on the top of poles at high school stadiums.  (uh-oh--sorry to the Klipsch owners. I am sure yours are fine.)

Seriously, as mentioned many times, your ROOM is more important than any single item.  Always demo new things there, please.


In a sence the A
loudspeaker quality is very important,for by far the Loudspeaker 
has much more THD % then any other part of your audio system 
by a large margin  at least 3-5% under excursions ,
this is why I Always rebuild the Xover with reference quality parts 
it gives the drivers much more precision and accuracy , if not 
it will cost you well over $10k+ just to get top quality throughout.
having sold Audio for over 30  years many well  know companies 
go cheap inside the speaker.

A loudspeaker/cabinet is the voice--the personality, for better or for worse--of your system.  It behaves more like a musical instrument than anything else in the system.  The room is also a huge factor, for the same reason.  All the electronics matter a lot, but not as much in my experience.  YMMV.
The problems is that excellent speakers can sound real bad if the rest of your equipment is not up to par, and an average quality speakers will produce more satisfying sound instead. The reason for this is that, high quality speakers are extremely reviling and will easily pick up on your system problems - whether it is your source, amplifier, cables and specially your preamplifier. If you thing that there are a lot of good preamplifiers out there, which will easily enhance the performance of your system, think again - most likely you don’t have good sounding equipment and eventually you’ll be unsatisfied with the sound and look somewhere else - unless you cannot hear very well, so it really doesn’t matter so much to you.
Sound quality has become my choice of drug, and yes I’m an addict when it comes to that. Good sounding system is not good enough for me. It’s got to be better than that - magical, and extremely emotional so you can feel the rush into your entire body and brain and you cannot stop listening for hours, until 3:00AM the next day.  That’s what I call a good drug.
A good room is transformative, and can make a lot of speakers sound really great.

Agreed Erik.

My listening room was renovated by an architect friend in consultation with an acoustician. It’s just a great sounding room. In fact, I’ve been surprised by guests who are totally non-audiophiles who, when sitting in the room only speaking, remark on the sound of the room! Things like "Wow, listen to our voices, it sounds so nice in this room."

I’ve been able to drop speakers of many types in to the room and it’s been a snap to get excellent sound.
As for the importance of speakers, that was impressed upon me earlier on in my audiophile life by a number of experiences. First was having my mind blown upon first hearing Quad ESL 63s at a friend’s place. He had a cheap amp and radio-shack wire but the transparency and presentation was another world from most other speakers of my experience.

Another time was after a truly mammoth speaker search (flying around north America to hear tons of great speakers) I ended up visiting John Otvos of Waveform. He gave a demo of his Mach 17 speakers for my friend and me, with very deliberately cheap amps (Kenwood or the like as I remember) and no-name cables. Yet it was just about the best sound I’d ever heard. Made most other speakers (including those hooked up to gazillion dollar amps/cables) sound like they were trying.It was the speaker design that made the difference.

On the other hand, I’ve been able to have incredibly enjoyable sound hooking up a variety of speakers, from expensive to small and modest, in my room and powered by my CJ tube amps. So I also get the "any decent speaker can sound great if optimized in a room/system" thing too.

I simply adore these ” “How much speaker should I….””  argument/debate/philosophy  threads.

They are not quite the venom filled or flame fuelded rants one finds in the usual “Do cables matter” forums, but both are time well wasted. If for no other reason than to see whose hat is in whose camp, and ‘why’. As if that matters either.

In the  interim, the supposed ‘guru’s’ seep out avowing this or that yet no one comes off saying their rig sucks or is way off being satisfactory, or even needs substantial improvements. Nope. All is well in Camelot and Camelot is in everyone’s listening room.

Everything matters. Everything. How much is always the debate for egos, forums and wallets.

Disregard your ego, and just let your ears, and wallet make those choices, not someone else’.

Having ultra pricey speakers are for sure luxury items, yet not necessary for a system to excel!  

Room to speaker ratios do exist and I’ve heard spkrs which are too much for a given room, though not the other way around, but these situations are fewer than one would think and far fewer as the reason the  outfit is underperforming.

Audio Expos for example have an immense disparity in speaker pricing, source units, power plants extravagance, yet many of the rooms are virtually the same size. Doubtless folks will say   of the exact same room, it was great, OK, or not too good, and the only real thing one can examine is the loudspeakers performance when its all said and done. Then looms the real question, how much of that sounds can be contributed to the spkr or its upstream friends? Its impossible to answer. Only how well the performance was can be subjectively ascertained, or how well XYZ spkrs can perform given its front end variables. Some speakers do have their limits of course, so finding those whose limits seem unlimited appears how to formulate a spkr short list.

Only one time have I ever heard a rig whose upstream fare met or exceeded  110K and whose spkr cost was far below that actually  sound flat, or blah IMO.

At the 2020 FAE the rooms which I felt were a cut above where those whose upstream  pieces were way above average speaker costing fare. Well, above! Albeit this came unexpectedly.

Bad sounding rooms are merely more difficult to manage. Its like choosing to fully customize   and upgrade say a ‘ 54 Nash Cosmopolitaninstead of doing up a ’56 Bel-air or a ’57 T Bird. But to each their own.

Performance is key but synergy trumps individual performance en masse. We seek transparency and neutrality but to what extent? 

As Al said, some people’s sonic preffs  lay in different realms of the bandwidth and certain musical genres do not reqire the entire bandwidth be supplied in total equality. The same goes for the expansive dynamic contrasts some genres demonstrate,  e.g., the Ops arrows currently receiving consequent adoration beyond what other higher costing units provided may support that theme. Or it could be supportive of the room to spkr ratio, or greater or lesser transparency of the signal itself.

My EXP has shown as I originally put it, top flight reference line speakers or even there abouts  are purely luxury and top flight reproductions of music can be had on far less levels of spkr accomplishment.

This spkr search must include equal attention to the power demands the short list discloses for speakers and amps are gonna see higher levels of performance if this matching just the current needs from the amp (s) are done well. Build of the amp denotes still more scrutiny, and all alone can escalate the presentation. 

I’ve found budgeting  a system is ridiculous for the seriously afflicted audio nut. Regardless what gets in the door first, its gonna change. 

Unless one has little or no constraints with financial wherewithal, circumstances more than budgets add or remove options just as will personal  philosophies on throwing money at a 2 ch. Audio rig.

I’ve yet to hear someone say the first outfit was a pair of Wilson Watts and an Onkyo receiver, or Creek INT amp. 

Get whatever level of spkr you can. Then add the ingredients to suit. This doesn’t mean speakers first at all costs. It merely means get some journeyman good performing nothing really faulty with them loudspeakers. There are untold numbers of them around.

My money once  some sort of affair is in play will target the source. As the foremost item to be upgraded. For me its been a trickle down affair thereafter quite often. Not always. Just more often thanmy ego & ears would prefer.

If the aim is always to seek greater transparency and organics, tonal integrity and naturalism, one won’t go far wrong. Chasing just transparency will severely diminish your audio library from the sheer abundance of bad recordings. So paying attention to balance is key with respect to the reproduction, and not as much to who ghets what amount of duckets along the way or at the onset.

If all the bits and pieces are of quality,  its reasonable to expect a quality sort of outcome. Mating and matching all the pieces with care often yields greater performance ala ‘synergy’.

The last rig I had to dismantle had about $40K MSRP in front of a pr of $8K MSRP speakers, and a $4K  sub. So what is that ratio? A bit more than 25% of total system cost for transducers?  It sure sounded better than my first effort which had 2K in front of a 2K set of speakers.

Its all gonna change anyhow… 

Good luck. Good thread.

I’m in the process of getting new speakers, but to just affirm OP's core argument, I’ll tell you this. I have some old Pinnacle PN5+ bookshelves — very small mid-fi speakers from the 1980s. Simply by buying acoustic foam for underneath them, repositioning them, and feeding them much better quality source material from a new CD player, they sound *many* times better. I still want to upgrade, but they barely sound like the little pieces of old gear I was ready to give to Good Will. They sound great.
Finally catching up with the audio world a decade ago, I started with electronics because my old stuff was totally analog. 
First came a digital preamp which the old dual mono power amp couldn't translate despite a high-end DAC. Got a contemporary power amp (Parasound Halo A21) and only then did the old Henry Kloss workhorses go flat.
So time for speakers. A closeout on nice big Wharfedales changed my sonic world. Best sound since my Maggie days around 1980.
And yet. Bass rolloff around  60Hz. No real soundstage depth. Just awaiting an excuse. So new speakers. And now? Preamp can't keep up.
Bottom line: Speakers make the biggest difference and the rule of thumb is that speakers should cost 2x the cost of amp and preamp combined. OP's experience seems atypical to me.
Everything is nonsense other than good speakers and decent adequate solid state amplification. Speakers are the first limiting factor and then amplification. I am immensely impressed with stacked eminent technology LFT-8b speakers (a pair per channel) run through a pair of dynaco stereo 400 series ii 205 w/ch amplifiers fed from an inexpensive B&K PT3-II Preamp. I believe in the ability to control bass & treble which has to be important for everyone. I have run speakers through a single 100 watt per channel rotel integrated amp and done pretty well up to a certain SPL. Most of the time I am listening through a bluetooth DAC via iphone or macbook. In my opinion the "audiophile" world is full of a lot of hype, nonsense, snake oil such as special speaker wire, exotic interconnects, tube amps, high cost sources, low power amps, separate DACs, separate power supplies, vinyl verses digital and on and on. I hear fine quality at significant SPL with my setup and I have heard plenty of systems. And at the same time I have enjoyed Bose computer speakers in their own range of capability.
Eh, I think most people here have really good front ends, and have approached the point of diminishing returns with them.  Speakers clearly make the biggest differences to the final sound, but if you have a front end that is not yet up to snuff, all speakers will exhibit their characteristic sound, but none of them will sound all that great.
You clowns are not who this advice was aimed at. Average Joe with, let’s say, five grand TOTAL to spend, yes, spend a lot on speakers. They have the greatest impact in that range. 
Transducers have the highest distortion ( including microphones ) because they have the most difficult job to do. Spend wisely. But realize your out of phase el cheapo paper cone midrange is producing a lot of trash. Now try fixing that with a drumroll..., power cord.

speakers are transducers.
But, IF you understand the violent relationship between speakers and power amps, you might like to think about them as an optimized system. So to that end, in my reference system about 2/3 of the system cost ( not including wiring, room treatment, and power conditioning) is in amps and speakers. This in a single source system.
Magus what do you have for speakers and sub ?
that is important to know ,and have you ever upgraded the Xover?
that for sure will give you better resolution and imaging  for that is where most companies skimp on , unless spending a lot.
I think we should distinguish major gains from incremental gains. I do believe speakers change have usually the potential for a major gain. Nevertheless it is waste of money if one does not upgrade the rest of electronics. For me this was very evident when I transitioned from Focal Utopia to Magico S5 and then to YG after several years of enjoying each if them. The gear that has made the Focals sing was far from capable to get the best of the Magicos. Same thing now with YG. This experience has proven to me that going first with speakers change and then tuning the rest brings best results and lots of fun figuring out best match in the given system.
I don’t agree with some comments thinkng vacuum tube is not the equal to SS
or hype, in many cases if good quality Vacuum tube can surpasses solid state in several areas 
sonic realism is one,  depth of image and soundstage width and depth 
as well as fullness of midBass. Solid state cost much more money to give you the realism ,i owned a Audio store for years system synergy 
is what is most important ,Having vacuum tubes such as a Respectable Vacuum tube preamp to go with a Solid stste amp is a classic mix and adds to the above 
reference.  Also wires you can get to the point of diminishing returns 
if your system is resolved enough spending $500-$1k on interconnects is not much . Myself  bought top wiring good Litz Teflon -0 Crystal pure Copper from VH Audio and saved $$$ 
and installing Copper connections throughout my system ,night and day better sounding then gold plated Brass which is what most midfi systems come with.
everything in the Audio chain has a sonic effect . The front end is also key
spending more on digital or vinyl or both for this is where your signal begins ,
you cannot make  up detail down stream . This why it counts  .i have put together systems in the $100k+ range for the few that can afford it and they are incredibly 
good,and for sure noticable better. That being said for 1/3rd that  money you can put together a very respectable system for under $30 k that is 90% as good .
low Bass you have companies like SVS  3000 dB, for $1grand world class Bass.buy 2 subs if,when you can it balances out the Bass in the room.
for digital there are a bunch under $1500 including vacuum tube that are 
pretty respectable.. one reason I mod my own speakers ,and have my electronics modded or upgraded is for adding say $1k in parts can bring you something 
thst sounds 3-4x more expensive if done right , That is money spent wisely .
i learned  from some of the best techs in the industry  in electronics as well as speakers it is all made to a price point .Did you know that less then 25% of the cost actually goes into the equipment, the other parts are in overhead ,R&D 
and  dealer markup.if buying direct sometimes can get better value ,keep this in mind that is why sometimes buying very good used then modding makes a lot of sense ,if you are handy and can solder or willing to learn
buy quality connectors and wiring and build cables  your self including power cords VH Audio  For example has a bunch of recipes to help the DIY community,Everything counts.
Had I upgraded my speakers mid way through, I would have undone a lot of the work that went into the system in terms of synergy.

You can't be sure about that. 

So, yes, many listeners will be happy with speakers that represent a relatively small percentage of total system cost. While others would find those speakers incapable of handling the dynamic peaks of some of their recordings, at their preferred listening volumes, and/or incapable of providing the deep bass extension they prefer. And for a given level of sonic quality, in the latter case preferred speakers will tend to represent a much greater percentage of system cost than in the former case.

I agree. 
All components in a system are important but the speakers are your stethoscope.

7,833 posts
02-15-2020 9:56am
"I do believe that being happy with any speaker is the room. Too often listeners hear a great experience at a dealer, come home, don’t have it, and then are sold power cables, amps, etc, to try and reach the nirvana which was always the room to begin with.

A good room is transformative, and can make a lot of speakers sound really great. A mediocre or poor sounding room requires you to chase synergy forever...."

That's been my experience as well.


Bottom line: Speakers make the biggest difference and the rule of thumb is that speakers should cost 2x the cost of amp and preamp combined. OP's experience seems atypical to me.


that plan sounds very, very, dated.

Mind telling us exactly where you found this mandate for  allocating funds when building a system?

this means in just one eX. a $10K line stage + a pr of $25K mono blocks should have a pr of $70K speakers?

good luck with that approach as !  its application likely pertains to the lowest percentile of this past times enthusiasts whose pockets can afford what ever,  when ever tiers of merchandise.

real world EXP has shown me quite the opposite  in various systems owned and operating in different folks homes I’ve visited.

in fact one note on audio performance was being reinforced in exhibition after exhibition at the Fla Audio Expo this year which was put the majority of the funds in front of your speakers and by a wide margin of the dealer’s and or presentors on hand.

the vitus 030 Integrated    demo ($55K) had it driving a pr of $22K speakers imported from lithowania

gershman’s Grand Avant Gard $14K per pr were being pushed by VAC statement pre and a pr of VAC Statement 450s. the VAC triad easily surpasses the Gershman’s allocation.

this arrangement was repeated with regularity regardless the loudspeakers on display with very few exceptions.

implying one must double funding for speakerage  comensurate with the power train’s total investment, is some speaker makers idealistic or at least quite ambitious perspective.

in fact, the digital domain and the loudspeaker technological highway seems to be the foremost avenues which are demonstrating routine and regular advancements, and as such wisdom there would not be to trade in the first borne or get a second mortgage for speakers as their SOTA   is a swiftly  moving target.

prudence likely says to provide ABC speakers with the best signal and electronic control one can, rather than have a superbly capable loudspeaker recreating   a mediocre or even pedestriann signal and or one whose voltage or current demands have not been accutely addressed or fully optimized.

another  note on  the speaker first at all costs notion is thier plain old practicality of system integration. speakers are often large, heavy and affected by more variables than are its upstream counterparts than just  power demands. It is usually easier to swap in and out amps than it is to regularly swap in and out the speakers themselves. 

A pr of speakers  presence alone can ordain a particular esthetic needs to be evident for them to just be in the system and might negate another brand whose fashion or appearance can not be provided albeit their performance could be better than the more attractive units currently in residence.

I started off with a JVC receiver and a Sony 300 disc player that I kept on shuffle most of the time. Infinity bookshelf speakers completed the system. I new nothing about synergy, tubes vs SS, cables room acoustics, etc. Walked into a high end stereo vendor one day and left with a pair of PSB Alphas and a copy of Robert Harley's Complete Guide to High-End Audio, 3rd Edition. I'm now playing around with speaker position and room acoustics. Seems to me I could have started anywhere on the components list, i.e. preamp, speakers, source, and ended up where I am now, playing with diffusers, dampers & locations. It's all been fun and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I've concluded that Synergy=(trial + error)/Time.
Speakers are the most important part of a system. They will determine the over all sound and image capability of the system but it comes down more to speaker type. Going from one dynamic tower speaker to another in around the same price range does not get you very far. People who keep jumping from one loudspeaker to another are simply not entertained by what they are hearing. You always have to move up market but not necessarily all that far and there are serious values out there. My absolute favorite loudspeakers cost $50K. It boggles my mind why anyone would pay $250K for a Wilson. If I were given a pair I would sell them immediately. I have had the same loudspeakers for about 20 years and will keep them until I can go for the $50K versions. IMHO they are better than anything out there other than the $50K ones. They present me with music the way I want to hear it. Other speakers do not. Not they they are not fine speakers. They are just not for me. So perhaps the problem is that many people do not really know what they want to hear and keep searching. To them I have to say, listen to live music, acoustic live music, the real instruments. Classical, Jazz and folk. If a system can fool you into thinking you are at one of those venues it will play electrified R+R just fine. 
After reading this, I end my subscription to Audiogon.  Fidelity listening is just too personal to get much useful advice on this forum.  Cheers.
room is important but you can greatly reduce its influence by placing your speakers away from back and side walls by at least 24 to 36 inches and listening nearfield away from the wall behind you.
it has worked well for every speaker that has graced my listening space. 
a speaker will always sound better with better quality recordings, amplification and sources.  however a poor quality speaker will sound poor regardless of the above.  in the end the speaker determines most of the quality of the sound. 
It boggles my mind why anyone would pay $250K for a Wilson.

Have you heard speakers in this price range as part of a relative system?
They have Wilson’s like that at Definitive Audio, as part of a $1.3M total cost system. Flagship Audio Technica, D’Agostino, etc. Major bling bling. Well there’s a lot of Microserf, Amazealot and Goolag money here in Seattle. So anyway, I have indeed heard such expensive speakers in a system along with equally overpriced associated components. And I wish I could say it was mind-blowing impressive, but sorry no, it just wasn’t.

Come to think of it, there’s been about a dozen times I’ve heard Wilsons over the years, always in really expensive systems usually really well regarded associated components, and never once been impressed.

Not that I blame it on the Wilsons. Speakers just don’t matter as much as we think they do.
They do. Different speakers for different listening situations and experiences.
I attended a show some month back where a dealer had three different setups (15K, 30K and 50K). In all three the speakers where around 40 - 50%. So he at least shared the view that speakers are most important. 


… literally everything down to the last cable has been tuned to work in synergy with these speakers. Had I upgraded my speakers mid way through, I would have undone a lot of the work that went into the system in terms of synergy.


not necessarily. I think this is sheer conjecture.  every rig is ever evolving. changing horses in mid stream may have come out similarly with what ever other alterations were made with the orig units.

for EX. what if one stays  in house with speakers but steps up a few levels? normal expectation would be more bandwidth and  bottom end response or articulation, given bass reproduction and its overall improvements escalate usually as speaker costs rise.

however the ‘house’ sound should remain in force to some degree.


Does anyone have any extreme percentages in terms of speaker cost to system cost like 5% or 95% and what has been your experience?


I’ve been a staunch supporter of ‘the ‘get what you can when you can’, system building ethos for  decades.

percentages be damned. those figures for   pieces within a stereo or HT outfit are aimed at marketing and bare little witness to what can be done if those numbers are NOT in play.

say the ratio for wires is already maxed out in each link , then what? Be happy? regardless the current results? 

one other very large Elephant in this room no one has acknowledged thus far is the underlying caveat this hobby rests  upon…


component performance does not equate precisely to cost in every instance.

has any of the number crunchers around here ever posted a speaker thread which aims itself at finding a consensus as to the percentage of improvement vs. cost as one moves up the speaker ladder?

IOW…. is a $35K pr of squeakers actually twice as improved vs. a $18K pair? or a $40K pr twice as good as a $20K set?


once that bag of worms is opened and than slapped shut, , then another bit of concious consideration looms large… ‘justification’.

one then must be able to justify spending twice as much as perhaps their present squeallers  cost for what? 10%, 15%, or 25% of improvement?

hearing a tad more, or maybe even something not heard before is not enough IMO to reconcile doubling my transducer indulgences. there would have to be more in the equation for me to pull that trigger.

i’ve heard plenty of speakers under the $50K range whose abilities are profound. well under. in fact under $35 in nearly every case, and many far below the 30s MSRP, of course. 

Just because someone, anyone, comes up with some likely unsubstantiated and probably unsupportable pie chart on how to split up the audio outfit’s funding in terms of flat percentages… like at a dealer’s shop… look closely at the systems they have setup in house and do a bit of quick math and see if the dealer is keeping to the same ratios they would have you maintain.

past times, hobbies, and or devotions engage more than simple numbers.  enthusiastic folks can and will overstrech means, some more prudent people will use good sense and restrain their financial    involvement. but as long as the variable is generated by the human  and his or her prevailing condition making the call, its truly an anything goes prospect at all times.

Botom line 

, when all accusations of a thing are partially or wholely subjective, there can be no absolutes. 



Really good speakers dont cost as much as they used to. 

Many very good used speakers available for less money too.
The process all starts with a room, a budget and a "sound" you are trying to achieve.  You buy the gear you think will give you the sound you want and when you bring it home and set it up in your room, you get your answer.

Most likely, its not perfect and for most of us, the "tuning" begins...not so much with dsp (yet) but with changing wires, electronics and speakers.  Eventually we get there (hopefully).  The better the room you have, the easier it is, the less expensive it can be and the better the overall result.

Every piece matters...BUT as blindjim pointed out, the Florida audio show had pretty much all similar rooms with decent construction and decent sound, so comparison was somewhat on a same same basis.  You could get great sounding (in those rooms) budget speakers and systems from Fyne, Magnepan and SVS....and you could get better sound from speakers costing 10x more driven by gear costing 10x more also.

I only picked up system pricing from a few rooms...The Magnepan .7s ($1400)... represented 7% of the total system cost.  The Fyne 502s ($2500)  were 11% of the system cost.  The Spatial M3s ($4200) were 33% of the system cost.  The Spendor D9.2s ($11,495) were 18% of the system cost. 

By comparison...my speakers + subwoofer represent 44% of my system cost...it wasn't planned that way, it just end up that way after a lot of tuning to get the sound I wanted.
maybe it’s been said in this thread but it is illogical and uninformed to make statements as to how particular speakers sound unless you listen to them in your home with your electronics. this is not generally possible so one has to make an informed guess.
last thing but important. it’s said that your  system is limited to its weakest link. does anyone really think it should be the speakers? unless you use effective eq nothing on the front end will change the ‘character’ of the speakers. they have to be very good. 
I have a pair of 30-yr old Sanyos -- two-way.  Cost about $100.  Great sound.  It's the wood box that makes the sound.  Particle board or plywood can't be beat.
As long as we can avoid the interminable hell of this forum:

  My Long List of Amplifiers and My Personal Review of Each!

...@ 187 pages, and 9.3K+ posts.....(apparently on 'life support' of some fashion.....)....😒

Speakers are our reproducers, the final instrument.
They matter.
The room they're in does as well...perhaps more....
What's 'upstream' Does....but it's a matter of taste and budget.

Beat a dead horse.
Stitch it up, blow hot air into it.
Renew the beatings.....

..and then wonder and complain about 'trolls'.....

Beats me, too....;)
Lovin’ my Tannoy Eaton Lagacys @ $5500 retail...beautiful sound. Hehehe, only paid $3900 brand new including Atacama SLX 400 stands!! I ain’t telling.....😁 I’ll add em’ to my collection of Wharfedales and my klipsch. Driving the tannoys with a Sugden A21se pure class A single ended integrated, pure heaven.....bass from the depths of hell....ok, I stole that from Part Time Audiophile guy lol.