With source first, at what point is source first enough?

Hi all

Just pondering. With the source first principle, when is it, one would say you could start looking at the other aspects of the system.

I.e if someone was using a ND5XS with a Supernait and upgraded to a NDX2 they have worked with the source first approach but would the consensus be to still keep moving forward all the way up to adding a 555ps on the source before looking at the Supernait and adding HiCaps or splitting to pre/power amplifiers?
Are there many that say use a NDX2 with say a 252/300 setup as they believe the source is good enough?

Cheers

Popeye

I have always found source first gave the best results when system building over a number of years. You may end up with a well balanced system but building to that involved using impeccable sources. This idea is not as prominent these days but I swear by it myself.

So a top streamer with a Nait and cheap speakers is a good starting point…

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That is an interesting question. On this forum it’s almost as if it’s mandatory to go at least 555ps if you are at Supernait level. So does that make an ndx with 555ps the better option compared to ndx, no external power supply with say 282/250?

@popeye over the past 20 years I have used 202, 282 and now 252 as pre amps and AMPs 200 then 300 which was DR a couple of years ago

my 2 sources are NDX and LP12 - LP12 is about 90% of what I listen too the most

the NDX certainly works really well with 252/300DR and I am in no hurry to get NDX2 (don’t stream or need Roon) only FLAC & Iradio (recently added in Titan Elecktra source) which has taken the NDX onto another level altogether and has put on hold any thought I had re PSU - cost vs musical return is exceptional!!!

I too believe in the source first but with a balance in the system so all works well together, all units will work togther but some when combined really hit that musical note

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I believe any system needs to be balanced, but have seen many systems where the source has been neglected. My theory is because the biggest immediate change (assuming a balanced system as starting point) goes the other way, i.e. speakers > amplifier > source. Although if separating power and pre, pre might come after source?

I believe source first is a way of fighting this and shouldn’t (necessarily) be taken literally but read more as don’t neglect/forget the source as many do.

This is my approach as well, although it’s based on the presumption that each source upgrade is a genuine musical improvement.

I think you can get more impressive HiFi by balancing the funds more but, for me, it wouldn’t be as engaging. So I don’t think you can ever go too far wrong following source first theory.

Of course, the ideal is to compare two options yourself with the help of a good dealer. Theory is one thing, but much better to compare for real.

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Source first in itself makes no sense. Why compromise a high end TT or CDP with a mediocre amp and speakers.

Synergy is what is required. Well matched components with the right speakers for the room.

Regards,

Lindsay

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And perhaps the right room for music

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By the same token, you could also say why compromise a great amp and speakers with a poor source?

My view is that it’s a case of you get out what you put in, which is, of course, a double edged sword. To that end you need to minimise how each piece of equipment exposes problems or failings earlier in the chain. This is what used to be referred to as masking effects. So ensuring that the most competent piece of the system is the first in the chain, and so on, makes most sense, both in theory and also in practice. Of course, a truly poor piece at any stage in the system will ruin the whole, so it must be assumed that even the weakest part is at least musically competent.

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Whilst source is Indeed very important, not everyone subscribes to the source-first principle: The speakers have the biggest effect on the character of the sound, so to really enjoy the music you need speakers that suit you (and work in your room). If the bass end of the spectrum is important to you then inevitably that may dictate relatively expensive speakers Once the source is reasonable I personally think it is much more satisfying to get speakers that really suit you, subject only to having an amp capable of reasonable control over them - then any improvement to source, or amp, will make them sing all the better.

Some people in support of source first say “garbage in, garbage out’ and cite the fact they can hear the improvement in source even through lowly speakers. Very possibly true - but the weakest link in the chain is always the limiting factor, and equally you can also hear improvements in speakers even with a lowly source. To me, for enjoying music getting the overall sound right is more important than maximising detail - some people have a different view.

But what you do depends a lot on future plans. If there are no plans to upgrade in the short term then the system needs to be sufficiently balanced, which is less important if planning to upgrade in the short term, when the goal is te key, and the steps need to Try to keep sufficient balance, which is harder with few big steps to the goal than it is with many small steps.

You don’t mention what speakers you are using so I assume the Totem High Towers as in your profile. I don’t know those speakers but they appear to be somewhere intermediate. If you are entirely happy with their sound the question is whether your amp is getting the best out of them, or whether the NDX2 is the limiting factor. If you are not entirely happy with the speakers then that is where I would suggest looking first, though you would need to try in order to know if it is simply the amp limiting them, or if you need to change the speakers themselves. Regarding source, people have upgraded the NDX2 with a Chord DAC such as Hugo or its bigger brothers (sisters?) - I would suggest that as something worth exploring as an option, but you do need to hear to decide what is right for you.

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To me what changed the sound signature the most has always been the speakers followed by the source and last the amp. So I work with speakers first. Naim don’t claim that mainly because they don’t do speakers :sunglasses:

@Innocent_Bystander that’s because I wasn’t asking the question out of my own pursuits. It’s just a topic to generate thoughts and discussion.
I have my own view.

Cheers

Popeye

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Haha… In my mind the 282/250DR or 82/250DR is staying for a while, and if I do embark on a journey towards more musically satisfying from this point on it will most probably be the ndx i.e. Source and room treatment that will get my focus.

In that case in my response the reference to your Totems needs reading as “For example if one had speakers like…”

I think source first is still the proper way to build a satisfying system but source first doesn’t mean you should throw most of the money on that. Inexpensive D/A converters have come a long way in the last decade…

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Naim have never claimed that, even when they did make speakers.

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They were saying source first when they were still making some of the best speakers in hifi history

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They were saying that even when they only made amps.

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It’s hard to argue with Richard’s logic - particularly with vinyl playback. I’ve always worked on the source first basis.

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Well in terms of cost - at new catalogue prices - my system is front loaded but that is because the S20s were just the best speaker I found that worked in my my lounge. I guess there are many ways to skin the cat. Look at the debate that surrounds the 272. No doubt that say a 272/XPS/300 with Titan 505s works really well but orthodoxy would say NDX2/XPS/282/HC/250 with Kudos S20s is the better option.

Back in 1985 I was told that a Linn LP12/LVX/K9/Rotel 820/little Wharfedales would work better than an Axis/AR 60/Heybrook HBS1s. Wasn’t the case to my ears the latter was considerably better. All subjective and it’s all good!

Regards,

Lindsay