The Chicken or the Egg? - Misc. NZ
The Chicken or the Egg?

The Chicken or the Egg?

What’s more important: your source or your speakers? This week we wanted to start with the our most common HiFi related question, this also transfers over into the realm of Home Theater, so without further ado lets delve right in, The argument over which is most...

Words by Rapallo

What’s more important: your source or your speakers?
This week we wanted to start with our most common HiFi related question, this also transfers over into the realm of Home Theater, so without further ado, lets delve right in,

The argument over which is most important in your audiophile system–your source component(s) or your speakers–is an age-old debate with strong arguments on both sides. Many audio company’s, have historically made the argument that your system can only sound as good as your source (thus you should invest in expensive front end components, CD players, streamers & Turntables Etc.)

The JBLs of the world seem to lean more on the notion that you can have all of the fancy front end components you want, but if your speakers don’t have any bass or can’t play at a compelling volume level, then your system might just suck.

I started out on one side of the argument as a student. I actually downsized from floor standing mission speakers into tiny bookshelf Morduant short speakers that I traded from a friend. The system began with a well-hyped Technics SL-PG390 Compact Disc player, a super-esoteric-at-the-time Naim NAIT 8-watt integrated amp from the U.K.

And then I learned quickly that setting up an audiophile system in a bedroom room half the size of a prison cell was pretty close to impossible on a physical level. The ultra-rigid Naim speaker cables always got in the way.

It didn’t take long for the Morduant Short speakers to go, as they simply had no bass. I replaced them with gorgeous Mission 753’s speakers, these speakers are now revered, What Hi-Fi has them listed in the 30 best speakers of all time, and they were finished in Black oak wood that looked simply fantastic.

But there was a problem: an 8-watt European integrated amp couldn’t hope to power properly these big multiple driver loudspeakers. Drivers were bottoming out. Distortion was audible. The Naim ultimately got sold. I bought a now legendry Pioneer A400 integrated amplifier, and everything changed for the better. I had the power to make my speakers do what they were designed to do, even if there wasn’t very much bass either. Gone was the distortion, as well as the driver issues, so my next paychecks went back into my front end, which included a Marantz CD-52 MKII SE Compact Disc player which was pretty hot shit back in that era.


Overall, my mid-1990s system was improving quickly, as I used most of my non-CD spending money to pay for audio and groceries (in that order, most likely).

What I found that I was doing was cycling back and forth between philosophies. When my speakers got better, I needed more powerful or more resolute electronics. When I brought home better front-end components, the upgrade was the inspiration to listen to every CD that I owned over and over again. When that new normal was… well normal, the drive to get better speakers bubbled up.

In the end, what I discovered was that it was the journey I was having fun with. Careful investments in blue-chip audiophile products paired with some good salary checks allowed me to experience more and more of the fun that the hobby had to offer. I was hooked. I was an audiophile junkie.

What being a product specialist in the audiophile space allowed me to do, though, was to experience far more gear from many different companies without having to invest my own capital unless I wanted to. But before I made that career switch, what I realized is that, in terms of buying gear, what made sense was building the system around the synergy of components.

At Rapallo we constantly review components and pair the units together to find their strengths and weaknesses, just because a brand makes CD players, streamers & amplifiers doesn’t necessarily mean they match sound-wise, most manufacturers excel in one area or maybe a few, their amplifiers might be phenomenal but not necessarily their streamer, matching components is critical.

Then there is the most critical part of the system matching, YOUR EARS. Everyone hears differently, we are all made up using the same body parts, nose, ears, mouth etc. but for instance, I love cookie dough ice cream and you might love vanilla, everyone expects a different flavour. The same goes with music, speakers, cars and planes.


First, it is very important to enjoy the journey. No matter if you start with a source-first approach or a speaker-first outlook. In the modern world, it really doesn’t matter, because you will likely be circling back to the electronics and then other upgrades over time and that is all part of the fun.

Secondly, I would suggest that room acoustics are key elements to audiophile success. Fixing the physical maladies of your listening room should be your top priority, but in today’s audiophile world, these are game changers that can get you much closer to the Promised Land, faster and for a lot less money than how I did it back in the day.

Lastly, don’t ignore the effect a well-installed subwoofer or two can have in your room. Pair a really killer small pair of speakers with a sub that is perfectly blended with your listening room. That’s yet another fast way to get to where you want with full-range audio that sounds nothing short of delicious.

Recommended reading