Is ‘Source First’ Still Valid In The World Of Streaming

Some folk have an issue with streaming still sounding digital - wheras cd had presumably surpassed this issue a while back.
On this take it should be even more valid.

As Nigel has already a top source and pre, the next is speakers and amp.
I would go first to choose the right speakers for my tastes and in the meantime the right speakers for the room. This last part is the most important to my eyes, because a lot choose the speakers first without that consideration. And after it’s the beginning of the delicate room treatment question.
Better have the right speakers that work good in a room that having speakers that will need room acoustic treatment.
Personally I choose the right speakers for my room, after some tests and thinking. And today I quite don’t need panels, bass traps…
The amp will follow the speakers.


Yes, it is fairly clear my next steps are power amp and speakers matched to my next listening room.

The thread is really about how one goes about upgrading a streaming system in a balanced way, and if ‘source first’ is relevant to the strategy. Could I have done things better?

This is more about me shooting the breeze with forumites than seeking advice.

I don’t know why you would think it’s not valid, if anything, it appears streaming emphasizes the importance of source first. Esp when you consider the importance of network tweaks.

My simple SU/NAS on BJC/Cisco network is more involving and musical than my CDS3/XPS2/252/SC2/250.2 setup ever was. I can’t explain why really. I will say that the latter did not benefit from the powerline and ultra hbl I have in my current system so that’s certainly a factor.

This aligns with my thinking.

It is amazing you have a simple streaming system that is more rewarding than your previous superb CD based separates system.

What is an ‘ultra hbl’?

It’s a very robust “power strip” made by Chris West at AV Options.


Blimey, that looks beefy!

I am still amazed at what a difference the sparkly-bottomed MusicWorks Reflex Ultra G3 power block makes. Defies all logic.

1 Like

You keep forgetting we were all bonkers before lockdown…but its rather nice place to be.

This has occurred to me, but I note that, in my experience, improving the mains supply to my systems, produced one of the most significant improvements in SQ.

1 Like

Your Mains is your source and goes with the philosophy…:+1:t2:


I thought it was a bit of the two…
Because I understood that you are wondering if your system is well or not well balanced, as someone recently wrote that your speakers are not up to your system.
But thanks for clarifying more the real goal of that thread, which I have not completely understood.

I am not in the camp of source first, be it streaming or not, in all cases.
For me going for an Nd555 with a Supernait for example is not logical, as the preamp part of the Supernait will be a real bottle neck in that case.
I am more in the camp of source with preamp first, in a balanced way.


I am of a vintage where speakers were seen as the most important element. Then along came Linn and the source mantra - and I think they were right, there was a lot of ‘average’ source equipment around in the late 70’s. They did the industry a great service - not that I could afford a Sondek. I think things are different today - in the digital arena anyway. Most source equipment is now pretty good. Is it worth spending £20k on an ND555? Depends - I’d say perhaps not if you run it through a 40 year old Sansui 217 mk2 amp and Mission 710 speakers (my first purchases in 1980!). I’m sure they would have been capable of demonstrating the improvement an ND555 brings - but would you be hearing everything an ND555 is capable of. Of course not. For me now it is about balance and synergy. Problem is what does that mean. I don’t think it is spending similar amounts on each component. I think it is about components that complement each other and deliver what the listener wants. We are all different. The problem of course is that never ending search for the ideal system given the vast choice on offer. I’m pleased to say that I feel no need to change my current set up - it delivers exactly what I want. Interestingly the speakers were the last part of the jigsaw - so full circle.


I would have thought that anyone who heard a source first demo and appreciated the musical benefits would be a convert for life. It either works for you or it doesn’t, whether it’s digital or analogue.

Source first is always related to budget constraints and comparing two or more ways of investing your money. As to whether or not an improvement in the source is worth the investment is another question entirely.


Yes, but is it a bottle neck? If the amp adequately drives the speakers and transfers the signal delivered to it, there is no bottle neck. But conversely, with a lesser source and better amplification, there is no better signal arriving at the amp to be transferred to the speaker? So more system balance including amp and speaker I think>


ND555/Supernait has to be a source first system, not a balanced system. You are mixing a 500 series source with an integrated that is the entry point to the Classic series. Balanced would be a 500 series amp to match the 500 series source, and you cannot possibly argue that a Supernait cannot be bettered here.

1 Like

I was in the balanced camp and had a 272/XPS/250. It was great. Only a desire to add features of the new platform had me speaking to my dealer about new streamers. He told me that the NDX2/XPS/SN3 is Naim approved upgrade (especially as I have a self-imposed three box limit). But in my mind the SN3 represented a downgrade of pre and power amp vs 272/250, so I wasn’t that keen.
But once I actually heard it, it didn’t matter a bit. In the end, the overall improvements in the musical performances were easy to hear. And, what was most surprising to me was that improvements in the sources were easily audible through the SN3 as we progressed through NDX2, XPS, PS555 and ultimately ND555 which is what I chose in the end.
Perhaps the same budget could be spent better if you don’t mind a few more black boxes in your life, but I’m not giving my source back and my SN3 downgrade is loving it.


I can’t indeed. But my point is that a lesser source with better amplification cannot deliver information that doesn’t even get to the amp.


To add, I’ve also gone full SL loom on a SN2 with lovely results rather than gone separates. It would be interesting to A/B my NDX2/XPSDR/SN2/HiCAP DR with SL against a bare NDX2 with a 282/250 and lavender cables as an example.


A personal experience observation relevant to source or speakers first: since getting my first decent speakers (IMF TLS50ii) in 1976 I have never been in any way dissatisfied with my system, nor stopped playing music. The two speaker changes since have just built on the theme. Other changes have added quality, in the form mainly of improved clarity or naturalness. Of the dozen other speakers I auditioned back then, all of equivalent value around £2500 today and all well reviewed at the time 11 would have been unsatisfying at best (including at least one favourably regarded even now by a few on the forum), and I don’t believe any source would have corrected tgat.

I have NDX 2/HiCap DR/SN3. Would you say that this is a balanced system or is it in need of a XPS DR to balance it?

Just wondering…

1 Like