OK, a bit of housekeeping first. Yes this is Hi-Fi Corner and the word ‘Streaming’ is in the title, but this thread is about system balance. I am also aware that a portion of you out there never believed in ‘source first’ but I would suggest there was a larger proportion who did, certainly in the analogue age.
But we are in the brave new age of streaming our music digitally, via a DAC, to our analogue amplifiers and speakers. This was of course the case with CD. With the availability of high quality streaming front ends at relatively low cost (certainly compared to a fully loaded LP12), do you really need to prioritise the source these days? Yes, you can spend a load of cash on a streamer front end, but you don’t need to, certainly if you consider ‘source first’ is less relevant these days.
If you take a look at my profile you will see I still believe in ‘source first’ and have one Monkfish of a system. With a top notch streamer and pre amp (BTW I see the pre as part of the front end), followed by relatively modest power amp and speakers, I sometimes wonder if this is still the right way to go. But when I hear how my trusty 250DR is faithfully amplifying the music it is being fed, and in turn, how my unfashionable MA speakers are portraying incredible songs, I realise this is still a perfectly valid approach to building a streaming system.
Yes, I know I will get significantly more from upgrading my speakers and power amp, but I have heard a huge uplift in SQ from starting my upgrading at the front end. And a streaming front end starts after the router and includes the link up to the streamer, Servers, NASs, switches and streaming cables, IMHO. Bizarrely throwing money at this extreme of the front end is no guarantee of better SQ I have found, with say streaming cables for example.
So, for me, rubbish in rubbish out, is still as valid today as it ever was, possible more so.
Go on, flame me!