Source specific

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Every component in our system was chosen based on our source preference: digital or vinyl. If we’re assembling a vinyl system then everything that follows is judged on how good music tracked with a needle sounds. Or, if digital, how a CD sounds.

We’ve covered this ground before but it is ground worth revisiting.

When building a system my advice is to choose your loudspeakers first and to invest the greatest amount of money in them. Everything else follows from there. But that isn’t quite the same as my opening statement of tuning to the source. Or is it? When you evaluate those new speakers it will likely be based on the source you’re most comfortable with.

We don’t always think about our selection process in terms of source material. Few think of the process as building a vinyl-based system, or a digital one. Instead, we tell ourselves we’re building a music system and we just prefer one source to another. The reality is that the source mediums are so different they wind up dictating just about every decision in the chain: speakers, amplifiers, preamps, wires, room conditioning, positioning, voicing. All tuned to our source material.

Which is why you can’t judge source technology by simply plopping it into a system pre-tuned for the opposite. Dropping the finest digital source equipment into a vinyl-based setup won’t work. You will always prefer the original.

It may not be possible to have a system that’s optimized for both so let’s not make sweeping proclamations about which is better, digital or analog.

All we can legitimately say is what we prefer in our optimized system.