Expensive amps and cheap speakers

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Is it overkill to have an expensive high-performance amplifier connected to a less than optimal pair of loudspeakers?

It’s an interesting question. One that harkens back to Linn’s Ivor Tiefenbrun’s statement that the source is everything—a difficult to answer chicken and egg proposition. His original argument went something like this. The source is the most important element in the signal chain because if you can’t retrieve the information in the first place, nothing you do afterward matters much.

In hindsight, we know everything in the audio chain matters, though I have often argued that no matter how good the source is if you can’t pass the information through the chain of electronics you’re in the same pickle.

Here’s the thing. Even a mediocre bookshelf speaker sings to the high heavens when powered by a well-designed audio chain, but the same cannot be said of the opposite. A great pair of speakers driven by poor electronics lays bare the deficiencies of inferior electronics. Thus, I would rather have a less than perfect speaker connected to great electronics than the opposite.

It is not overkill to power less than perfect loudspeakers with perfectionist high-performance amplifiers.

I’ve put together a little video with some more personalized thoughts on the matter, here.