Where to put the better cable.

Here's the scenario: CD > Preamp > Amp - that's two pairs of interconnects required. One pair is much better quality than the other, so where should the better quality cables go? CD > Preamp or Preamp > Amp ? I'm talking in general here. Of course the best thing to do would be to try it both ways and listen, but there must be a rule of thumb about this.

Interesting thread and comments. Elizabeth's comment would be my first choice but time after time, I have found the most crucial cable link in the system is between line stage and amp. I have run a mixture of Cardas Golden Cross, SilverAudio, MIT 350 and NBS Statement. At one time I even used a cheapo pair of Belden. With the NBS being 100x the cost of the Belden, the Belden was still quite good between the phono and line stages at the time (ARC PH2->ARC LS5III) but the Belden was absolutely terrible between the LS5 and amp (VT130). All of the harmonic richness and 3D of the system was gone with a mediocre cable here and yet from the phono stage, it was mighty good! It is not always about resolution or "best cable to the top of the chain". I think it has as much to do with the cable interface between the output and input links.

Over time I switched to NBS in all links, each time making an improvement in system performance, but still trying the Belden from the phono stage to line stage, now Aesthetix Io -> BAT 31SE, shows quite a decent link....but even more so a musical disaster from line to amp. The second most critical link from my experience is the tonearm cable and then 3rd, from DAC to line stage. I too tend to start with what common sense would indicate, but my ears often tell me something very different. So the only way is to try for yourself.
That's not a correct way to compare since the belden was not able to match your preamp and amp ( LS5 is balanced and the belden was never intend to be used for balanced application.)
Different component pairs will react and sound different based on the IC between them. Try it both ways and see which sounds best to your ears. Just remember that the 2nd one in the chain can't add anything to the signal, so the most transparent and uncolored IC should probably work best higher in the chain, but like everything else, that may not always hold true.

Just to complicate things a little bit, changing the direction that the cable plugs in may also alter the sound, as will the polarity of the AC plugs on each component. Makes for a nice challenge to identify the "best" setup. Now multiply that by several components and you have a year's worth of trial and error to go through.

Happy holidays,
Cables react differently to each component due to output and load impedances. Just try at each component to get the best results.
S23Chang: The particular belden cable I have indeed has separate signals for each phase. Whether or not it was "designed" to run this way I don't know...but it has 3 distinct lines and thus allowed the LS5 to run in its truly balanced topology. And it worked mighty well from the truly balanced PH2phono stage to the LS5 line stage.

The belden cable aside, I have owned cables as indicated previously as well as tried others such as the AQ Diamond which literally robbed the system's 3D presentation and ambience when used between the LS5 and VT130 ... but it worked quite well between PH2 and LS5.

The Cardas Golden Cross was an excellent value cable between the LS5-VT130. Its warm emphasis in the mids captured the LS5's magic. The SilverAudio Appassionata in this link brought on somewhat of an analytical sound but captured more low-level resolution than the CGC from PH2-LS5. Which one is better? "Better" is not the issue here. Each cable clearly had a synergy within certain links in the system. But the LS5-VT130 link was always the "make or break" in the chain when it came to getting that magical sense. And today I fine the same is true from my BAT31SE to Counterpoint NPS400.

So it is not an issue of the Belden but rather due to interractions which I am not qualified to desribe...all I can tell you is what I observed sonically.