Starting from the wrong end of audio?

Like most, our quest for great music has been an interesting journey. From reading, testing, experimenting, listening, discovery - many hours spent (some may say lost) fine tuning our listening experience to maximize our enjoyment of music.

In the past few weeks, I have come to reconsider the old adage of starting the audio quest with speakers and then working our way backwards. While I understand the theory behind spending the most on speakers first, I believe we all have been doing it backwards. My experiments/experience now has me firmly in the camp of starting with good power above all else, then working our way forwards. By starting with a power plant and good power cables on each component, one can actually allow the system to work near it’s maximum capacity from the start. Then when a component is swapped in/out, it will also work near it’s upper level. For all the cool gear I’ve tired over the last few years, I wish I could now audition it all over again with proper power to see what it can really do.

And these gains do not need to be on a super high end system to be heard. My little desktop system consists of a pair of PSB B5 speakers, generic speaker wire, Teac AI-301DA, USB from computer. Nothing super fancy, just a nice near field setup that was transformed with the addition of a P3 regenerator.

If you haven’t tried any power components, maybe it’s time to hear what your system can really do?

I guess its the old pro’s and con’s…on the one hand as you say starting from power enables the full potential of every component…on the other hand if your budget is limited and you start with a basic optimization of several thousand $ while listening to smaller speakers for 5 years vs. listening to bigger/better ones without a regenerator for this time…not sure what most would prefer.

I guess it’s a question of the period between initial purchase and upgrading the setup.

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If one is on a limited budget and can only afford the basic setup, then you start with a basic setup. But if one is thinking of an upgrade or has money they want to invest in a system, power would be my first consideration. And the idea that all your components should be of the same level otherwise one is wasting the potential of the highest component - what better way to improve the overall system then with the basic building block that powers everything. One could buy lower cost components that run at maximum potential and sound great or spend more money on a component that will be operating at a fraction that it could and sound ok.

I always simply upgraded the weakest part of my system when the budget allowed a change. It didn’t matter to me if some part of my system wasn’t able to show it’s full potential when other parts of the system weren’t of sufficient quality yet, at some point in the future they would be. Keeping a system “balanced” thru out it’s life costs more and when upgrading you really want the rest of the system to allow accurate A/B’ing of a possible upgrade.


@dlw5065: Certainly a P3! A Potentially Provocative Position. And Pro-Power Plant as well! :metal:t2: (or as I like to call it, a “Regen”)

Preposterous Premise, Probably - with respect to overall investment - except that I do think that some less expensive systems and Class D amps may benefit from regenerated power more obviously than more expensive components with “better” internal power supplies, or at least, power supplies that are less affected by AC.

Just not sure that if you’re starting from a system such as you describe, that there is any guarantee that lesser components will result in overall better sound by spending on AC to begin with, vs. putting that same money into speakers or other primary building blocks. Especially if the lower cost components “sound great” already… :man_shrugging:t2:

The type of Speaker is huge. Not $ but rather type.

I went the wrong direction with Goldenear, now moving towards Zu. The sound is completely different. The lack of crossovers changes the sound much more than any electronics upgrades do.


I think that is a good observation. There are a lot of different speaker topologies you could spend $X on, and they would be enormous differences vs. anything AC could do.

Call me old school, but I still adhere to speakers and sources top priority. One fallacy perhaps is the notion of what to spend the most money on, which I might quarrel with. It’s always been less a question of whether I spend the most on my speakers and more a question of what I want from them and the best choice among many different design approaches to reach my goals. I’d have to say it doesn’t matter how much I spend on power conditioning or cables if the business end of the whole system isn’t cutting it. I adhere to sources as top but equal priority to speakers. IMO it again doesn’t matter how much money I lavish on power conditioning and cables if the signal in isn’t to my standard. I admit I do in the case of sources equate price with quality, just my empirical observation, and I pour a ton (well, as much as I can afford) on my analog and digital front ends.
When I’m satisfied with the front end inputs and the speaker end, everything else follows.

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Watch out for the power cord rabbit hole. Pretty suspicious all this shielding causes more issues than benefits.

The new Iconoclast BAV power cords are very good and not huge $

For me the Electronics came first. Whether it was a Cartridge choice back when I had Vinyl or my Adcom Preamp/Amp choice. CD Player or Tape Deck back in the day. My Speakers always came last and were always Homebrews since High School. Being a Tech, I’m always more interested in what all those electronics boxes are doing. The Speakers will either elevate what come out of all those Electronics boxes or expose their weaknesses.

Now if you are on a seriously tight budget, yes Speakers first followed by what ever Electronic Boxes you want to plug into said Speakers. Later, when budget get better, invest in better electronics, keep the Speakers. If you notice no improvement, make sure you can get your money back. That’s it. If you notice an improvement, then welcome to the Rat-Hole !

Interesting. I’m new to the forum, but I’m not a power source convert. Y’all think it’s worth spending thousands on power conditioning and special AC power cables? Coming from the electronics industry, I’ve never seen a convincing explanation for why the component itself can’t clean up its own power.

Anyway, as y’all said, budget matters. Fifteen years ago my Paradigm Monitor 20s and Rotel separates were way more fun than not quite being able to afford a power conditioner :D, and that’s more system than most people would even appreciate. I didn’t own a system worth more than $2k until my late 20s. Even if I could find a used P3 for $1500, it would have to literally be magic to be more satisfying than adding a good sub to my current system.


The big picture matters and its ingredients do matter because they make it. At some point I went for one of those all-in-one systems from Naim Audio, but still I needed to select good speakers, speaker cables, and a decent power cord to get the best out of it. We have a few active forum members who have Devialet, and PS Audio Strata. Again, they had to do their homework to get the best of what they have, be it the speakers, the cables, LAN, etc. depending on their budgets, living spaces, quality of power feeding their systems, and personal preferences. Moving to separates added more complications with interconnects, multiple power cables, and power regeneration, irrespective of whether the source is digital or analogue. But experimentation and overcoming challenges is part of the fun of this costly hobby :grin: