Once in a while I receive an email asking if one component is better than another. For example, “which is better between DAC A and DAC B?” DAC A and B are usually both really good, so which is better is the wrong question. The right question is, “which will be better in my system?”
To get the best results, it’s essential to understand the role and the importance SYSTEM SYNERGY plays in your audio. It may be a great component, but that doesn’t make any difference unless it works with everything else in the system as a whole.
Synergy could be as simple as specs, like an amp being powerful enough to drive your speakers. However, in most cases it boils down to the character of the unit. If I have a dry solid state power amp, I’m probably going to match it with an active preamp that will give it a little bit of body and liquid flow; that would be good synergy, at least for the type of sound I like. Using a passive preamp, which tends to maintain the sound in a more untouched way, would be an example of poor synergy.
The bottom line is always, what kind of character you are going for in the system. There are countless instances were these choices arise and they relate to every element of your system, from the source to the amp, the tubes, the power cables, the fuses, etc. Do your homework on the review sites, the forums and talking to friends and eventually you’ll have a feel for what to expect when you try something new.