What Matters and What is Nonsense

I’ve been an audiophile for approximately 50 years. In my college days, I used to hang around the factory of a very well regarded speaker manufacturer where I learned a lot from the owners. When I started with audio it was a technical hobby. You were expected to know something about electronics and acoustics. Listening was important, but understanding why something sounded good or not so good was just as important. No one in 1968 would have known what you were talking about if you said you had tweaked your system and it sounded so much better. But if you talked about constant power output with frequency, or pleasing second-order harmonic distortion versus jarring odd-order harmonics in amplification, you were part of the tribe.

Starting in the 1980s, a lot of pseudo scientific nonsense started appearing. Power cords were important. One meter interconnects made a big difference. Using a green magic marker on the edge of a CD was amazing. Putting isolation dampers under a CD transport lifted the veil on the music. Ugh. This stuff still make my eyes roll, even after all these years.

So I have decided to impart years and years of hard won knowledge to today’s hobbists who might be interested in reality. This is my list of the steps in the audio reproduction chain, and the relative importance of each step. My ranking of relative importance includes a big dose of cost/benefit ratio. At this point in the evolution of audio, I am assuming digital recording and reproduction.

Item / Importance to the sound on a scale of 1-10 / Cost benefit ratio

  • The room the recording was made in / 8 / Nothing you can do about it
  • The microphones and setup used in the recording / 8 / nothing you can do about it.
  • The equalization and mixing of the recording / 10 / Nothing you can do about it
  • The technology used for the recording (analog, digital, sample rate, etc.) / 5 / nothing you can do about it.
  • The format of the consumer recording (vinyl, CD, DSD, etc.) 44.1 - 16 really is good enough / 3 / moderate CB ratio
  • The playback device i.e. cartridge or DAC / 5 / can be a horribe CB ratio - do this almost last
  • The electronics - preamp and amp / 4 / the amount of money wasted on $5,000 preamps and amps is amazing.
  • Low leve interconnects / 2 / save your money, folks
  • Speaker cables / 3 / another place to save your money
  • Speakers / 10 / very very high cost to benefit ratio. Spend your money here.
  • Listening room / 9 / an excellent place to put your money. DSPs have revolutionized audio reproduction
In summary, buy the best speakers you can afford, and invest in something like Dirac Live or learn how to use REW and buy a MiniDSP HD to implement the filters. Almost everything else is a gross waste of money.
Excellent topic, phomchick.
Agree with much of your analysis. Would give higher ratings to format because JRiver can significantly improve the SQ through upsampling a CD with SoX (am upsampling to 768khz, then direct by USB to a RME ADI-2 DAC and find the analogue result stunningly quiet and transparent). Also, use Belden 1800f balanced interconnects and find they offer audible improvement higher than a "2.".
Think, as well, that improvement levels are layered based upon the maturity of your system. Found that when I got quality speakers (Tekton Double Impacts), did physical room correction and Furman power conditioning, then used REW to establish EQ, my system reached a certain basic level. Since then have improved the DAC to great effect, tried quality power cables (little change but some help with noise/transparency) and welded speaker cables (no change at all). Found that a Class D amp made a substantial change in SQ but not for the better by comparison to Class A mono blocks.
Suspect your topic is going to generate contradictory claims and look forward to the wars about to ensue...
I'd agree with most of that, though the room the recording is made in can be corrected quite a bit through microphone placement and post-processing.  Still, you're right in that the ultimate limit is always going to be in the quality of the recording.  

I've been toying with the idea of trying out a Class AB or A/AB amp in my 2-channel setup, I realized that all I've owned has been class D (well, my computer integrated is a BASH amp).  But I'm leaning towards doing some physical room treatments first.  I have been using Dirac Live in that setup, and it made a big improvement, especially in the clarity and quality of the bass.

I use Amazon Basics interconnects, which are well built and inexpensive, and Sewell Silverback speaker cables, which are 12ga OFC and come pre-terminated with nice banana plugs, and are also inexpensive.  

My current setup in the lounge is crammed with surround speakers, 16awg speaker cable off the reel (99.9% OFC) @$3/m, cables mixed with power boards and power cables and ethernet cables in the back of an entertainment cabinet, an amplifier in one of the cabinet ends (cooled with a computer fan cut into one end) and an OPPO-105, Yamaha Tuner and a mini computer in the other end cabinet (cooled the same as the other) and 2 NAS units either side of the centre speaker, and a 65" Samsung sitting on top in the middle of the L & R main speakers, oh and the Sub sitting to one end on the wood floor. No spikes, nothing special apart from an Isotek conditioner.

I still get fantastic sound out of stereo music or surround movies. I certainly don't see the need for change. But change will happen when our new home is built and I get a separate music room. I just ordered my equipment stands. 6 chunky coffee tables (@$125ea), 2 for the turntables and pre at the front and 4 double stacked for the other stuff at the side of the room. Upgrade of speakers mean I'll use 3 matching chunky lamp tables @$99) for the LCR speakers up front. I'll use some felt on the feet so the herringbone French Oak floors don't get scratched. The other speakers will fit at their required places as will the 2 new Subs. Same telly on the wall, the room will be great and I have spare change! Who says I need high brow wires and interconnects? May be I am a realist with my money vs the great sound I appreciate.

I love this. I know it’s been beat to death but I do love the balls of it. Let’s face it. The recording is where it all starts. If it’s crap you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear. If it’s a fabulous recording- the studio/hall, the microphones, the mixing board, the tape or digital, the final production....now we have something. From there it’s your speakers and the room they play in. You can converse about cables and such but the yield is much lower. Make your room right, your choice of speakers right and enjoy the music. The rest is fiddling. Nomex suit on. Tuning out. 
+1 I agree 100% with OP.

S P E A K E R S are F A R more I M P O R T A N T than nonsense from tweakers ! ! !

The tweakers have their place in all this. They keep the industry ticking over, edging on the next "find". Out of all of it, something inevitably filters down to the average user to improve their system.

They also keep the threads ticking over to amuse us.

interesting analysis. personally, i'd ascribe more importance to amp/preamp and to recording format, but i also agree with much of the rest.
When you get down to it, you get all you NEED from a boom box and a six pack of beer.  This whole hobby is an obsession.  The responders pointing fingers at the more obsessed and gnashing teeth in anticipation of a blood bath when they show to defend themselves has troll written all over it.  You're not just beating an old topic to death, you're bored, looking for an argument, feeling superior, ridiculing the only reason this and other audio forums exist.  Hey, start your own website for the true audiophile.  All you need is a speaker forum, a room forum and a troll forum to tout your superior knowledge and experience to the grown-ups.  

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ridiculing the only reason this and other audio forums exist

+1 That is indeed ridiculous ;-)

Who cares? They overly compress everything anyway. First it was only CDs, now it’s CDs, LPs, SACDs, Hi Res Downloads, even those Japanese SHM CDs and SACDs are way over-compressed. Give me a break!
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I think it is nonsense to believe that a new receptacle will "break/burn in".  I can understand a better/tighter connection with the plug via a better quality unit, but not that a receptacle will break in.
Overly compressed masterings have, truly, become the bane of audiophile's enjoyment. The new Old Crow Medicine Show album is a classic case of the CD sounding just like MP3 because all is compressed way too close to 0 DB. Cannot listen to it for any length of time.
Studios are under pressure from labels to make all WAY TOO LOUD because they believe it makes the sound preferable/saleable over less loud/compressed masterings. This might be affected by lower quality listening equipment where volume is confused with quality.
Higher quality orchestral recordings (now becoming dinosaurs) have a transparency that makes all sound LESS LOUD. The timbral accuracy and soundstage definition pay off big dividends in return.
And, for a pop example of great mastering, listen to the self-titled Natalie Merchant album that is crystal clear and beautifully dynamic. Sarah Jarosz's offerings are also well done in this regard.
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elizabeth .....OMG you bought speaker wire for 6 cents a ft.? Im so ashamed of you !!!! 
I would agree. To me room and speakers. Proper amp to drive them a good preamp to give a natural pass through and a great source to start be it Digital or Vinyl. As far as formats both can be superb if care is taken in the mastering and recording. It’s rare now days with newer recordings due to production and compression use that make everything loud at the same level. 
I don’t know for certain, but I’m betting that these recordings when downloaded in DSD format are not compressed:

(I have the Mahler 2nd recording and it has a dynamic range approaching 50db.)
And... high rolling audiophiles don’t make me mad or sad. They amuse me, and make me slightly jealous. My original post was about cost vs. benefit. Once you get the basics in place, DSP room correction will make the biggest possible improvement for a moderate investment.
Psychology/Acoustics members...aka that forbidden word, especially to us OCD types,  “ Psychoacoustics “.  The OP couldn’t be more correct and more timely in presenting this....@ least for me as I’m again looking at separates.

Another place I’ve found that pays off imo is to spend a extra on my favorite albums, ie, HDCD, SBM, MFGold, etc and Label type; RR, Hyperion, DG, etc.

Now where is my old boom box and a six pack?
Regards, David
I am a tweaker. I am not going to talk disparagingly to any others though. I appreciate others views. I can learn something from them.
I am going to take an unpopular position, so try to be kind. The DAC/Controller and amps are more important than the speakers, at least after you buy a good speaker. Good speakers will sound better and better the higher the quality of the electronics. They respond to the signal feed to them. I spend more on electronics than speakers. 
The whole argument about what can one do after the recording is made is akin to what can one do after the A/C receptacle with the power after all it's gone through.
Answer: a lot.

But it's good to see/read that some here took the advice given and made a home for themselves. Such as it is.

All the best,
markalarsen ......I totally agree that good speakers will sound better and better with higher quality electronics. Then speaker cables and interconnects. Then all the tweeks. 

I agree with many others on this thread that the quality level of recordings is very important. Even if your reproduction system is excellent, it will only be able to faithfully reproduce what was captured on the recording when it was originally made. In other words, the quality of the recordings played is a limiting factor in the overall sound quality of any home music or ht system.
Excellent recordings will sound that way on an excellent system. However, the quality of all recordings will also be more easily apparent the better the quality of your system becomes. Poor recordings will sound that way, even on an excellent system.
I use a laptop running JRiver that sends ripped CDs and 24bit/96Khz hi-res files on a Synology NAS to an Oppo 105 serving as a DAC and player. Amplification is a pair of high powered class D monoblocks driving Magnepan 2.7 speakers. Bass below 40 Hz is reproduced by a separate 4 sub distributed bass array system powered by a 1K watt class AB amp. I believe most members, including myself, would classify my system as good but not excellent.
The main point I want to make is that, even played through just a moderately good system, the quality of the recording largely dictates the quality of the overall sound produced on my system. I’m able to clearly discern the superiority in general of my hi-res FLAC and WAV files in comparison to my ripped CD files.
I primarily perceive the hi-res files as having lower background noise levels, greater dynamics and higher levels of details that seems to result in a more realistic sound stage illusion as well as a better sense of the recording venue.
Some of these characteristics may actually be mostly attributable to the higher resolution level of the hi-res direct to digital recording format but I’m considering this just another contributing factor in the more general recording quality assessment.
I think the variances between recording formats and recording quality would likely only become more easily noticed the better one’s system becomes.
Of course, nobody’s going to completely agree with phomchick’ s list of relative importance of relevant factors in system building since it’s so subjective and there are too many permutations with assigning a relative importance ranking..
I tend to agree on some of his thoughts:
The high importance of buying the best speakers you can afford and a good listening room.
The relatively high importance assigned to elements of the overall recording quality such as the recording room, the mics used, the room and mic setup as well as the equalization and mixing of the recording.
But I tend to disagree on some of his other thoughts:
His relatively high importance assigned to room correction and DSP.
His claims that there’s nothing we music consumers can do about the format and quality of recordings.
     We are all constantly voting with our dollars. If we consistently vote by purchasing the better formats and recordings, the content providers will continue to supply and even increase and improve the quantity and quality of those recordings.

I also feel that good powercords and interconnects and speaker cable are more of a component in ones system. 

RE DSD recordings and dynamic range:

You are correct, sir! Check out the dynamic range in the vinyl. Whoa!


I am in general agreement with the OP.

Though I think the section about the importance of the recording methods could essentially have gone without saying. I don’t know any audiophiles - "tweakers" or not - who don’t realize the role the recording/mastering etc methods are to the sound of any track.

It’s in the playback system that there is lots of confusion and disagreement.

I myself put the emphasis on the biggest bang for the buck: speakers, modifying room acoustics, and speaker positioning. To that end my cabling is simply "competently manufactured cables, chosen for the task." For instance I have a long run of belden (10 awg, probably over-kill) speaker cables that go under my floors from my source room to my speaker room. (Which must be a frightening to those who believe they need cable risers even in the few feet from their speaker to amps. Imagine the audiophile house of horrors to which I’m exposing my cables!). I use stock power cords, and a mishmash of interconnects. Still using an old Benchmark DAC1 - not even usb!

For me the importance of putting money into good speakers, and paying attention to acoustics, is re-enforced every time I listen to another system employing expensive cables, DACs, etc. For instance I have been auditioning many different speakers for the last couple years or so.
Inevitably the speakers - usually ones well lauded and essentially competing around the same price range as my own - are hooked up to fire-hose cables (or Nordost or whatever), super expensive AC cables, conditioners, expensive CD transports or servers, etc, etc.

And pretty much every time I come home, play the same tracks on my system, it sounds at least as good or better - I hear every reverb trail, every this and that, all presented smoothly, with finess and dynamics.
The tens of thousands in additional expense for cabling and accessories sure don’t seem to show up as any advantage in the store auditions - certainly not enough to overcome good speakers and acoustics.
(That’s also true when I listen to some pal’s systems with crazy expensive Nordost cabling).

So I’m really happy not to have been convinced that I need to have spent time, thought, and MUCH more money on cables and tweaks.
(I’ve seen some people around here actually recommend spending something like 30 percent of your budget on cables!).

None of that is to proclaim that none of the expensive accessories can make a sonic difference; it’s only to say where I find my own money is best spent.

That said: I have in my own experience seen the effects of amplifiers on a system. I prefer certain tube amplification over SS in my systems. Even though we may be talking objectively subtle differences, they seem to play a large role subjectively. I find myself much more drawn to sitting down in front of my system when using certain tube amplification.

Further, at one point I re-did my 2 channel room to do home theater duty as well. This meant switching the usual speaker/listening sofa position 180 degrees. Talk about a rude reminder of the effect of room acoustics!   Once I did that, the change in acoustics made my speakers sound like crap! Sucked out, dry, brittle, you name it. I was utterly despondent as I didn’t even want to listen to anything any more. But I had been temporarily using an old Harmon Kardon SS amp (because my CJ amps weren’t working). A good amp and I’d always enjoyed my smaller systems using it - in fact it had been powering my speakers and things sounded fine before I switched the room around. So it wasn’t the problem, it was the acoustics.

The HK amp went on the blink and I had to borrow another. My pal had an old Eico HF-81 14W side tube amp lying around and lent it to me. I knew nothing about that amp, just wanted sound coming out of my speakers. When I started playing music I was gobsmacked by the sound - big, rich, full, organic. There was that sound I’d been longing for and was used to in my previous set up! My butt was suddenly stuck in the chair listening. That’s all it took to show me I could still get in to two channel audio. Afterward I commissioned an acoustician when remodelling the room and now my 2 channel sounds better than ever.

So I’m certainly an audiophile who can obsess over little things. I’m super sensitive to alterations of tone in my system. But I reap so much more in dialling acoustics and speaker positioning than anything I’ve heard from a cable or conditioner of any type (or other tweaks - and I have had access to many tweaks and high end cables etc).

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The room is the area that you need to get right 1st. Most people don't treat the room and they think it sounds fantastic, they just don't know.
Next, I would put SYNERGY as #10. If you go out and buy a nice Wilson or Magico speaker for $100,000, are you going to drive those with a $1000 amp? Hell no!! You are going to have to spend some good $$$ to get the proper size amps for the speakers you buy. If you buy an inefficient speaker, you are not going to drive them with a 5 watt SET amp. 
Everybody thinks they can slay high end audio by going cheap on components. If you want to spend .06 ft on wire, then get a sony or pioneer system. If you want to spend a couple grand on a system, go to best buy. Don't think you can get a real decent system without spending some $$$$.
Regarding the relative importance and cost/benefit ratio of speakers vs. upstream components, I believe that the following factors involving listener preferences and requirements have tended to be under-emphasized in past discussions involving that question, and are also significant contributors to the divergence of viewpoints that is commonly seen in discussions of that question:

1)For a given level of quality, the cost of a speaker tends to be dramatically affected by the maximum volume capability it can cleanly generate, and by the deep bass extension it can provide. Both of those factors affect cabinet size, of course, which in turn also affects cost. And listener preferences and requirements regarding those factors tend to vary widely.

2)For a given level of quality and a given class of operation (A, AB, or D), the cost of amplification tends to vary dramatically depending on how much power the amp must be able to provide, and on how challenging a load impedance it must be able to deal with.

Personally, I listen to a lot of well engineered classical symphonic recordings having very wide dynamic range, and consequently an amp/speaker combination that cannot cleanly produce 105 db peaks at my 12 foot listening distance would be a non-starter. And I prefer speakers that do not require me to use separate subwoofers, in part because they would clutter up my listening room which is also my living room. And I prefer speakers having highish sensitivity and benign impedance characteristics, so that as high a percentage as possible of my amplifier dollars can go toward quality rather than toward watts and drive capability. That all adds up to speakers being the most expensive component in my system, by a considerable margin. For others having different preferences and requirements, it could very understandably be a different story.

-- Al

Your point about synergy is certainly well taken. The idea obviously makes sense.

On the other hand, the end of your post seems to imply the common audiophile idea that if you are spending big bucks on speakers (and amps) then one should expect to spend significant money on cabling.

I and others have found that to not be the case.

As I mentioned in my system description: I have high end speakers (Thiel flagship 3.7, MBL Radialstrahler, etc) yet I haven’t spent a cent on "upgrading" any stock cables to audiophile AC cables, and my speaker cable cost a mere $1.20 a foot. Yet I find my system holds up no problem against those with tens of thousands of dollars in cabling and power conditioning.

And I could probably have spent only .60 cents a foot to get the next higher (thinner) AWG version, and could have realized the same sound.

Speakers, amp and preamp. In that order. 
I don’t buy into crazy expensive cable or interconnects also. The original recording his hugely important as well. Can’t put lipstick on a pig. 
Agree completely with your approach and, also, listen largely to dense orchestral feeds. Have been able to achieve your two conditions with (highly efficient) Tekton Double Impact speakers and A/AB Emotiva mono blocks. The combined price for both is only about $6k. When coupled with an excellent orchestral feed the speakers disappear nicely and you can spend your time listening to sections and their timbral qualities.
What speakers have you settled on? Have found it is difficult to step up from the Emotive mono blocks because other Class A amps are so much more expensive.
@prof  @mickeyb   I do not doubt the veracity of your posts regarding cabling not being an important contributor to your system's sound.  My experience involves that spending judiciously on upgraded cables does make a real difference to the overall sound of my system.  When I upgraded my speakers in the summer of 2016, Johnny Rutan told me that I might have issues with the very large gauge AQ Earth series speaker cables with the new speakers.  I had all but forgotten about his brief comment until about 5 months in or so with the new speakers the bass seemed on the heavy, slower side relative to the rest of the frequency spectrum.  It was then that I began to research the vast array of cable offerings looking for the right fit for my system.  When I found them, the heaviness was gone and the treble and soundscape opened up. Interestingly, they were considerably less expensive than the AQ's.

Have you experimented with fancy cables?  If so, did you hear any differences worth noting?  I'm just curious to hear about experiences that differ from mine.

My opinion is very different than most.  My buddy has all of the best streaming stuff and he has tried a bunch of stuff to get to where he is today.  That being said, many on Audiogon mention price like $5000 preamps, $10K amps, etc.  Price has nothing to do with performance, sound, build quality, etc.  For example, we build a Pass Labs clone of the first watt class A power amp.  It changed his system dramatically.  We then added a 6SN7 preamp we recently designed and the system changed altogether to another level again.  By another level I mean within 30 seconds there was a major improvement to the system.  You do not have to go back and forth to hear these improvements.  I build components and my DAC which is a DHT design has a 35lb power supply.  That being said, you cannot get the sound that my components produce by room treatments, matching components, room correction devices, etc.  Those things IMO cannot make a piano sound so real or a stand up bass hearing the plucked strings with through the wood body, produce micro and macro dynamic swings, sort out a sound stage, sort out complex passages.  At least, I have not heard that with anything I have come across.  So IMO only there are too many variables to rate these things, but it is fun to understand what everyone hears in their systems and what they have experienced.  I do enjoy most of the threads and have met so many really nice people I feel humbled by all of this and most of you.  Happy Listening.   
Craigl59 5-21-2018
What speakers have you settled on?
Hi Craig,

I have Daedalus Ulysses speakers, as you can see in my system description thread. I’ve owned them since 2010, and I have no plans to replace them in the foreseeable future.

As you’ve no doubt seen in the main Double Impact thread, member Waltersalas (Chris) replaced the Ulysses he had used for several years with a pair of DIs, and then recently purchased DI SEs. That certainly reinforces the many praises of the DI and DI SE, and the uncommon value they represent, that have been provided by owners such as yourself and by those having significant listening experience with them.

For me, though, aesthetics are a major factor when it comes to speaker selection, in part because my listening room is my living room as I mentioned earlier. And with the DIs and the Ulysses being nearly at opposite ends of the spectrum in that regard, IMO, the DIs would not be of interest to me.

For amplification, btw, I use a 70 watt per channel VAC Renaissance 70/70 MkIII, which uses four 300B power tubes per channel, operates in class A, and provides several selectable feedback settings including zero (which is the setting I use). I believe it retailed for upwards of $14K when it was manufactured around the turn of the century, but I purchased it used for far less than that. I suspect that its similar but less powerful brother, the Renaissance 30/30 (two 300Bs and 30 watts per channel), could be found used these days for not much more than $3K, and would be a great match for your DIs. Although even with only four 300Bs in that amp, the cost of re-tubing would be considerable were it to become necessary.

Best regards,
-- Al

I respect your experience with your system!

I’m not looking to turn the thread into a "cable" thread beyond simply stating my experience and view. And since you asked...

Over the years I have had experience with fancy cable. Especially having done some reviewing long ago and knowing other reviewers, people in the industry, high end shop owners etc, I’ve had some experience with quite a number of fancy cables over the years.
And often enough I would get cast off cables from higher-rolling friends, or if I have to borrow a cable, I’ll end up with some far higher priced cables than I would buy.

So various cables have been in and out of my system, and I’ve heard tons of the highest end cables in reviewer’s systems.

Nothing ever convinced me to spend money on the high end cables. (In fact I did some blind tests on some Shunyata AC cables that cured me of ever wanting to spend money there...)

I’m not at all adamant that high end interconnect or speaker cables can’t sound different. In theory of course they could be made to sound different. (Though "different" and "more accurate" aren’t the same of course. I’m a bit more skeptical that super expensive cables are passing higher fidelity signals than a competently built cheap cable - which would seem capable of passing everything in the source signal just fine. None of the the many incredible old recordings (let alone many new) that are still reference quality today were using boutique cables and the cables used in recording, mixing, mastering etc seemed to perform just find. And I’m even more suspicious of AC cables. But, again, I’m no expert and I’m just making inferences from my own experience and the most trustworthy info I can find elsewhere).

If anybody is keeping a tally, one more vote for mostly agreeing with the original post. I would add a few points to amplifier, though.

As far as cables go, I feel it is worth investing in them a little bit for cosmetic/visual effect. I have not yet, but would.
The only tweak I did was add a Monarchy Audio AC Regenerator to my system (tube preamp and tube phono stage) and it made a significant difference - more low level information. Nice.

I’d disagree about electronics being more important than speakers.  I’ve demoed B&W 804 D3s powered by an Integra receiver running through a Magnolia switchboard and they still sounded excellent, and a clear step up from the CM10 S2s even with what would be considered a big electronics mismatch.  

Can electronics sound different?  Sure, and tubes in particular can introduce euphonic distortion that many find pleasing.  I’ve heard some tube amps that sounded great, and I may play around with one in one of my systems at home, but they’re not necessarily more accurate (which may or may not matter to the individual listener). 

Still, tubes aside, once you’ve found an amp that’s capable of handling your speakers’ load (which will be more demanding for difficult to drive speakers like Revel Salon2s, certain electrostats, or a notorious amp killer like the Apogee Fullrange), you’ve found enough power to drive your speakers to the desired dynamic peaks in your room, and the specs on the amp are good enough to not introduce audible crosstalk or noise, the differences between electronics should be pretty slim, other than DSP features which can have a dramatic effect on the sound.  

The distortion introduced by speakers and room effects will be orders of magnitude greater than that introduced by electronics.  Spend the money on the speakers and the room, and enough on electronics to drive them without limitations.  
I don’t know why I rise to the bait of these provocative posts, but I do. If the OP had just added a small caveat that this is his humble opinion then all would be well. But no, we have an objective position described, even down to scoring each element out of ten. Oh dear.

I have 40 years in audiophilia (I mention that as the OP states his/her 50 years gives him/her some God-given right to be right) and 30 years working in the music industry including much time spent with mastering engineers at one of the UK’s biggest recording and mastering studios. I can categorically state that the OP may be stating his beliefs, but they are no more than that, and by no means are they definitive truths.

Let’s take the mastering studios as an example: very expensive amps, cables and DACs are present. And remember these guys, as mastering engineers, need the most accurate sound from their source. And interestingly different engineers spend different proportions of their budget on different elements. But if you only take the elements in the studio that match home Hifi, none of the engineers would recognize your assertion of truth, and indeed in none of the studios are the speakers the most expensive item from the dac/amp/room treatment/cabling.

And my own system? Having heard near perfect audio reproduction in the studio I knew what sound I wanted to achieve. After endless home demos along the way, only spending when an improvement was heard, I ended up with the following spends:
cdp/dac (34% of the total cost),
integrated amp (38% of total cost),
speakers (14%),
cables/rack/grounding/isolation (14% - and yes, these have made as important a contribution as the speakers).

The sound I have achieved is not as perfect as the mastering studios, but it’s pretty amazing.

The difference is, I would never say that you or anyone, should follow my spending allocation, nor that of the studios, nor that of the OP. Every person is different, every room is different, every system is different. Let people find their own truths and please stop proclaiming yours as THE truth.

Never having set a foot in a studio, save for Compass Point with no music playing, it was interesting to read your short observations of them. I wish you elaborated more on that, but it is probably a topic for some other thread.

Despite agreeing with you 100% on...

The difference is, I would never say that you or anyone, should follow my spending allocation, nor that of the studios, nor that of the OP.
I think you are a bit harsh on OP. I had a feeling he simply made his thoughts public, rather than preaching that is the only way it should be done. More like an advice to a friend who is asking for help navigating. Maybe I misunderstood it.

When I was growing up, I heard that half of your budget should go to speakers and the rest would be divided between whatever sources you chose. It was to be some golden rule. Has anyone else heard of that logic? It just stuck with me and I, not intentionally, happen to have achieved almost perfect equilibrium these days.