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Ultimate List of What Matters and What doesn't Matters or Audible Differences

Middle Earth

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By “what matters” what is meant is what makes an actual audible difference and what does not.
There is ”science” to it and subject preference.
For example this is listed as #1
“The speakers/headphones (should spend 90%+ of your audiophile budget on this)”
I have a difference of opinion on this.
I personally would allocate a lesser percentage on my speakers and especially on my headphones.
But that may be settled audiophile science and I am therefore a denier.
The O/P’s list seems well conceived and articulated.
Again I would be interested to see that list redone in 10 years.
By the way, I think 24 bit is better but I am completely content at 16.
 

Galliardist

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There is ”science” to it and subject preference.
For example this is listed as #1
“The speakers/headphones (should spend 90%+ of your audiophile budget on this)”
I have a difference of opinion on this.
I personally would allocate a lesser percentage on my speakers and especially on my headphones.
But that may be settled audiophile science and I am therefore a denier.
The O/P’s list seems well conceived and articulated.
Again I would be interested to see that list redone in 10 years.
By the way, I think 24 bit is better but I am completely content at 16.
Interesting. I've gone in one step from a system where 85% of the budget was on speakers to where I am now, with a bit under one third of the cost for the (same) speakers. In practice I only have improved performance as a general case when playing louder than I would normally, so in sonic terms alone I wasted my money. I have advantages in terms of facilities though and my partner likes the new stuff - which is something else that should be on a list, just don't use the patronising WAF.

I don't believe audiophile science demands any particular price balance. Circumstance is more important, particularly when you don't have a dedicated room and have to compromise.
 

Harryharryharry

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Given this priority list, how come it feels like most reviews on here are electronics that make little difference or are totally transparent?

It would be great to see more of a focus on speakers, placement, room treatment/eq etc.
 

Waxx

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I think that whole "price balance" thing is rubbish. Get what you need on specs and what fits your situation, and not on price. A good speaker can be relative cheap, and so can be a good amp. But i would more look at if the system is tuned right, if the amps, sources and speakers/headphones are well compatible with each other and are well calibrated and fit your need. And all the rest is secondary.
 

Galliardist

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I think that whole "price balance" thing is rubbish. Get what you need on specs and what fits your situation, and not on price. A good speaker can be relative cheap, and so can be a good amp. But i would more look at if the system is tuned right, if the amps, sources and speakers/headphones are well compatible with each other and are well calibrated and fit your need. And all the rest is secondary.
I know I just said it needn't matter, but there are cheap electronics that are good and speakers may only be "relatively cheap", so when starting out spending more on speakers (if not that 90%) is still going to be the norm for a starter system.

And, of course, if you are buying active speakers the balance towards those speakers will be higher. In fact where streaming is built into the active speakers you get to 100%!
 

popej

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Noise matters. Be it environment noise, fan noise, transformer hum or audible noise from speakers.

Splitting components doesn't matter. We split streamer into drive and DAC, amplifier into power amp and preamp, stereo amp into monoblocks. If anything, it brings more problems, but business likes splitting.
 

Galliardist

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Noise matters. Be it environment noise, fan noise, transformer hum or audible noise from speakers.

Splitting components doesn't matter. We split streamer into drive and DAC, amplifier into power amp and preamp, stereo amp into monoblocks. If anything, it brings more problems, but business likes splitting.
Agree re noise.

Both splitting and combining gives different problems: for example, when an all in one active speaker fails and needs repair.

And of course the more boxes, the more cables. Dealers like that when they can sell you lots of lovely, expensive cables! :rolleyes:

It's best to buy according to your use case and budget, avoiding companies and distributors that won't or can't provide for repair or products that have been reported as failing at a higher rate, rather than worrying about the particular technologies involved.
 

Justdafactsmaam

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There is ”science” to it and subject preference.
For example this is listed as #1
“The speakers/headphones (should spend 90%+ of your audiophile budget on this)”
I have a difference of opinion on this.
I personally would allocate a lesser percentage on my speakers and especially on my headphones.
But that may be settled audiophile science and I am therefore a denier.
The O/P’s list seems well conceived and articulated.
Again I would be interested to see that list redone in 10 years.
By the way, I think 24 bit is better but I am completely content at 16.
I am hesitant to agree with you on preferences. Apparently when *I* defend preferences on this forum I am harassing the accuracy is everything camp and I get banned from the thread. shhhhhh. I agree with you.
 

Galliardist

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I am hesitant to agree with you on preferences. Apparently when *I* defend preferences on this forum I am harassing the accuracy is everything camp and I get banned from the thread. shhhhhh. I agree with you.
Well, you did dive straight into the biggest fight going and you weren't exactly subtle, either. Try picking your spots, quietly developing your arguments, and learn about the prevailing views on the forum, and you'll be fine.
 

Justdafactsmaam

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Well, you did dive straight into the biggest fight going and you weren't exactly subtle, either. Try picking your spots, quietly developing your arguments, and learn about the prevailing views on the forum, and you'll be fine.
I’m just going to be me.
 

ninox

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I like your lists although I put 'ability of spouse/other family members to easily play music when they want to' very high on the list. When I was little my parents had a large beautiful Marantz receiver connected to some Klipsch heresy speakers. To play radio: turn knob to am or fm, to play record turn to phono etc. Very easy. So many components ignore easy.
 

Curvature

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I like your lists although I put 'ability of spouse/other family members to easily play music when they want to' very high on the list. When I was little my parents had a large beautiful Marantz receiver connected to some Klipsch heresy speakers. To play radio: turn knob to am or fm, to play record turn to phono etc. Very easy. So many components ignore easy.
@computer-audiophile On ease of use.

Definitely worth spending money on.
 

Zapper

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After returning to vinyl after a hiatus of 20 years I'm reminded how much the cartridge really matters. The biggest audible improvement I've experienced in a long time was upgrading the eliptical cartridge that came with the turntable (AT-VM95E) to a micro-linear (AT-VMN95ML). Suddenly the tracking distortions (especially inner groove) that had bothered me forever on multiple turntables and decent cartridges were gone. Probably the best $169 I've spent on audio gear.
 

Zapper

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Another valuable thing: a proper ABX test, and the honesty to believe the results.

I learned a can't resolve better than 320kbs, and recent Bluetooth implementations are so very close to transparent for me as to be perfectly acceptable. I haven't tested it but I'm confident that I won't distinguish a basic DAC from a deluxe one. Those are personal results of course. Those with +6 sigma hearing ability will be able to resolve much greater differences than I.
 

Keith_W

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I would add these two to "what matters":

- VST's. Many people are horrified at the idea of altering the "purity" of the signal, but you these allow you to tailor the sound to your taste. Examples, uBACCH, exciter VST's, MSED VST's, dynamic range expander VST's.
- eartips for IEM's. These make a massive difference. Although I can't measure it (I don't have the equipment), I can hear changes in frequency response, particularly in the bass if I get a good seal. A good eartip also provides more isolation from the environment and lowers the noise floor. In addition, some eartips are more comfortable than others.
- Many vinyl tweaks make a difference. There are too many to list, and I am hardly an authority on vinyl given that I don't own a turntable.
- Recording quality. This has already been mentioned and debated.

I would add to "what kind of matters":

- Computers. These need to be silent and preferably fanless so that they don't contribute to the audible noise floor.

And as for "what does not matter" - the list is virtually endless. Bybee purifiers, Shakti stones, Quantum dots, Peter Belt tweaks, vibration-free equipment stands and vibration "isolation", cable lifters, and so on. However, I would comment on these:

- Cables for IEM's. No, I am not arguing that they change sound quality. But I find IEM cables to be very important from a usability perspective. You want a cable that is non-microphonic, has memory wire for ears, has the right connector (I favour right angle connectors). With IEM's the most common point of failure is the solder joint between the IEM and the cable, so a detachable cable is an important feature for me.
- Audio cables are also important from a usability perspective. I have a habit of buying the cheapest cable possible, after all they are exactly the same the way they transmit signal. However, I have had a couple of cable failures, again at the solder point to the connector. Whilst this has (thankfully) never happened with a power cable, I have had two XLR interconnects which were not insulated properly short between the pins. This was devilishly difficult to diagnose because the problem was intermittent.
- "Audiophile" software. Any bit perfect music player sounds exactly the same as any other bit perfect music player. The only difference is usability and features. Some features make a difference, e.g. ability to host VST's and an ISO226 volume control, but otherwise they are the same.

I would suggest you separate out interventions that make a difference to sound quality, and interventions that improve usability. For many people here, Roon is not a waste of money, even though it is expensive and sounds exactly the same as any other bit perfect player, including free options like Foobar. But for them, that money is well spent because it improves usability.
 

Julf

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Regarding cables, is there a case where, good cables, geometry, materials etc. assist the components in-between better, making their job easier?

I can only imagine as I don't know any electronic engineering, something like, push and pull of signal or power is easier, less heat, less noise? That's all I can think of.

Whether this is all audible, well, yeah, I'm just curious about this matter anyway.

Cables are caracterized by their resistance, capacitance and inductance. As long as they are within reasonable limits, the electronics don't care (unless they have serious deign flaws, like the Nait amps that require special cables in order to avoid oscillation).
 

Andrej

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I know this is assumed, but it is worth pointing it out: The first thing on my list is finding music I enjoy! Finding a good rendition and recording is somewhere on that list close to good speakers and room acoustics. Electronics, cabling, etc. are solved problems for me, comparatively speaking.
 

highender

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I would add to "what kind of matters":

- Computers. These need to be silent and preferably fanless so that they don't contribute to the audible noise floor.
Good one, an advantage of streaming is that you do not have to deal with noisy hard drives. So a streaming service that fits you best 'kind of matters' too.
 

popej

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Cables are caracterized by their resistance, capacitance and inductance. As long as they are within reasonable limits, the electronics don't care (unless they have serious deign flaws, like the Nait amps that require special cables in order to avoid oscillation).
The most important feature of the cables is length. Too short and they wont work...
 

Julf

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Good one, an advantage of streaming is that you do not have to deal with noisy hard drives. So a streaming service that fits you best 'kind of matters' too.
Isn't most storage solid state these days?
 
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