Goodwin's High End

Audio System Matching

In a well-matched system:

  • Synergy between the particular components in the system yields higher performance than quality of the individual components would suggest, and
  • No one component dominates the performance limitations of the system; every component is of roughly comparable quality.

In choosing components for your system, we suggest that you try to avoid products with highly colored tonality. Sometimes these products can be successfully matched in a system by choosing other products which have offsetting colorations. However, while you can assemble a system with components utilizing the inverse euphonic coloration method, you will probably find it very difficult to upgrade such a system at a later date unless you are prepared to replace several components simultaneously. For if you change only one component, you may find that the tonality will swing wildly away from neutral, just as one person hopping off a balanced teeter-totter will make the other person fall to the ground. Instead, we prefer to choose products with highly uncolored (neutral) tonality, so that a component can be readily upgraded in the future without disrupting the system's balance.

Avid audiophiles sometimes end up with a collection of components bought either impulsively or because "they were a good deal "or because "they got a good review". A lack of satisfaction with the unbalanced system then drives another cycle of hodge-podge buying to fix the system's deficiencies. As a hobby, this product swapping can be fun. However, if your goal is to attain the highest possible performance level for your given budget, then we have found that it is best to purchase components strategically with system-matching being kept as a primary goal. Buy components only if they fit into your long-range system plans, and resist tempting diversions.

We often use the metaphor of a chain to describe system performance. The weak link in the chain, i.e. the poorest performing component, will dominate the performance limitations of the system. When upgrading a system, you will achieve the largest performance gains by upgrading the least good component first. When buying a whole system at once, make sure that you are not overspending in one area and under-spending in another.

Sometimes we intentionally mismatch the components in a systemat least for a little while. High performance systems can sometimes be too expensive to buy all at once. In this case, we suggest buying one component at a time. While the system won't achieve it's full performance potential until the last component is purchased, this strategy minimizes the total cost of the system and insures that the final system is well planned and evenly balanced.

A well matched system will very naturally reproduce the music you love, with the highest possible performance for your budget.


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