The System Percentages Thread

Purpose of this thread is for folks to post where each sub-category of 2 ch music systems they’ve built falls as a percentage of total system msrp. There will be no absolute rights or wrongs, but if a critical mass of postings are achieved, it will give new system builders a reference point of various breakdowns that have worked for A’goners.

I’m probably different than most, in that after a 20 year dormancy (since an NAD/B&W system in 2000), I jumped into the deep end and put together four complete separate systems in the last 18 months. By contrast, most I assume evolve their system(s) over time, picking up a new piece here or there to replace an existing piece.

Both approaches are welcome here, although I thought maybe since I approached each system from scratch with different budget, and planned (sometimes meticulously, sometimes very haphazardly) out the subcategories that way, that it might make for an interesting thread. Plus I’m a numbers guy so this stuff is really interesting to me (and most of all I'm bored with the virus shutdown!!). When I got done and calculated the actual percentages for each, I was surprised by the variance.

I’m sure there’ll be some back and forth about what the best ratio is, and likely that it’ll vary depending on budget, but let’s keep it civil. We all know there are no absolutes in audio, and what works great for one won’t work for another, and vice versa.

For budget I list msrp, even though much of my stuff was acquired used or demo, or at much reduced sale prices. But msrp provides a fixed reference, if nothing else. Feel free to omit budget if you prefer, but I think it adds context regarding differences in %’s across systems.

Feel free to add additional categories than those I have (my systems are simpler than many here I’m sure). Demerits if your percentages fail to add to 100%, haha. Okay to add more details like make/model, but mainly interested in system percentage breakdown. Get those calculators fired up!!

Anyway, here are my four entries:

Reference System ($20-25k msrp):
Speakers: 46% (L,R, and sub)
Amp: 27% (integrated)
Source: 9% (streamer/dac)
Power Conditioner: 5%
Cables: 13%

Secondary System ($10-15k msrp):
Speakers: 42% (L, R, and sub)
Amp: 32% (power amp)
Source: 15% (streamer/dac)
Power Conditioner: 3%
Cables: 8%

Office System ($1-5k msrp):
Speakers: 65% (L, R, and sub)
Amp and Source: 25% (super integrated, all-in-one with streamer)
Power Conditioner: 4%
Cables: 6%

Portable System ($0-1k msrp):
Speakers: 15% (L, R)
Amp and Source: 80% (super integrated, all-in-one with streamer)
Power Conditioner: 1% (surge suppressor)
Cables: 4%

I've taken this same approach for years only with a slightly different breakdown. Speakers, amp, source, wire and tweaks or accessories are the categories I use as they encompass the system completely. When done this way they are all equal and work for any budget.

At the low end speakers are two. Until the budget increases enough to add a DBA.

Amp almost always is an integrated, until the budget gets sky high enough for separates.

Source is for one. Adding multiple sources you have to choose, spend less on everything or additional per source.

Wire is cables, until the budget increases enough for a conditioner to make sense.

Tweaks and accessories. This is the big one. Vast majority have not caught on to just how effective the right ones can be. 

That's the five. 20% each. 

Now the exceptions. Budgets aren't like most people think, something OCD anal tightwads do. Budgets are to guide and filter. The guide is it makes you realize oh yeah I really do need to give equal attention to the wire as the amp. The filter is it keeps you from wasting time looking at or worse buying stuff you can't afford. Budgeting isn't a straight jacket. Its a tool.

So like we have some guy right now looking at a budget system. If it was a one-off then it would be 20% across the board. But he plans on building over time. He has speakers and amp he knows he likes. They are way out of his budget. So he gets them, and cheats out on the rest, knowing it'll catch up later.

That's the way to use a budget.
True that!! But dang, gotta have something audio-related to pass the time rather than measuring the distance from my speaker tweeters to ear level at listening position for the 3rd time in last month!
I suggest seek out new music to listen to.

I go backwards. 1980 or so
Unlimited music to discover. Especially if you stream.

Anything modern or current has the past to be thankful for.

If that isn't enough, clean/tidy up the rack. It's dusty, and those cables are a mess.
Hmm that sounds like work!  😫

Go back even further than that to the 1920s even. A lot of recordings happened pre-Beatles worth hearing to gain a full appreciation of recorded music in all its forms and variations since inception.
Yep, currently going reverse chronologically through all of the Van Morrison albums. (some of those albums last couple years......eww, not his best).

And rerouting cables / adjusting Vibrapods / dusting rack / tweaking speaker angles, that was last week ..........

I need some OCD percentages to look at and digest!! Come on, I know there are more out there like me, hahaha (sigh)
True that!! But dang, gotta have something audio-related to pass the time rather than measuring the distance from my speaker tweeters to ear level at listening position for the 3rd time in last month!

Order some fo.Q tape off eBay. $40 for two sheets. This will be time consuming, but you have time. Take any one of your speakers that is easy to remove and pull the drivers. Replace the gasket with fo.Q tape. Apply fo.Q tape to the speaker basket (frame). Put it back together. Be amazed at the massive improvement in openness and palpable presence. Open your amps. Stick some on whatever caps and transformers are easy to get at. Stick some on the metal cover.

Now you will understand why tweaks and accessories are equally as important as everything else. And this is only one, and I have even better.
Primephonic offers up playlists of little-known music from well-known composers.  Right now I'm listening to obscure Tchaikovsky selections.  And oh yeah, I'm also cruising that damn net...

If $40 worth of tweaks provides a massive improvement to every amp and pair of speakers why wouldn’t manufacturers simply integrate them into the design? I understand why they don’t include expensive power cords, but tweaks that cost pennies??? Seriously, why would they leave so much meat on the bone when the massive improvement wouldn’t be adding to their cost at all?
I asked this question 20 years ago. Can't remember replies (if any). Great minds think alike...
Right on, dweller!  I did a search before posting but didn’t really find same thing so just went with it (like I said, was bored). 
Alas, perhaps you and I are only ones interested (and you 20 yrs ago!), because nobody else is listing but at least got a few fun replies — not a total loss. I’ve certainly done worse : )
Post removed 
I play fantasy football and closely follow nhl and nfl rosters and salary cap developments and speculation scenarios, and in some ways to me this system exercise provides visibility into one’s priorities with their system “roster construction.”

It can also help point out the bargain performers in your system roster (akin to players on great team-friendly contracts), as well as the bloated components perhaps not performing up to their investment level (akin to an overpaid player who may perhaps be a salary cap casualty candidate).

For instance, I know in my reference system that my source plays way above its pay grade and fits in well with its higher priced roster teammates, which in some way makes me value its contribution just a little more.

By contrast, in my office system, I see that relatively speaking I have an outsized investment in speakers, but I wonder sometimes whether I’m getting performance from them commensurate with the investment.
Thanks wrssrw. Good point on room treatments. I simply don’t currently have investment there yet (plan to) so didn’t include in my breakdowns. But point we’ll taken. 

I thought about audio rack or stands/furniture but decided not to do include as category. Open to debate as to whether I should have, I suppose.  Others are free to if they like, of course. 
Another thing I think about after charting this out is my choice of asset allocation between systems. 

Should I put more resources into my reference system to make it better, or balance as I’ve done probably more than most with my secondary system, I sometimes wonder. 

In my case, my reference system is in a highly shared area of the house where wife/kids often want to watch TV or movies, or where kids are doing homework, or lately where wife working from home, etc, making it difficult to utilize my best system whenever I want. 

It’s for that reason I’ve lately been prioritizing buildup of my secondary (the only other of the four that is in my house) so that I have a really good viable alternative when the main system not available
I’ve been keeping a percentage table for years. Results have stayed pretty consistent despite fairly constant changes and upgrades. I call my system a mid-go stereo system that is 90% music 10% television. Which translates into a percentage for preamp (I use a Marantz AV8802a as preamp and to decode SACDs)

MSRP: $20,124. cost: $12,690

So, by buying primarily used equipment, I end up paying 63 cents on the dollar. This is fairly stable over time, though I did start out buying all new, and I ran two systems for years.

(MSRP Cost)
SACD/CD. 5% 3%
Streamer. 13% 9%
Pre-amp. 20% 20%
Amplifier. 15% 20%
Speakers. 30% 24%
Cables. 18% 24%

In my mind, I generalize this to a “20/30/30/20” model (source/amp/speakers/cable). Though for a higher-end system I would think more like 15/40/30/15.

I thought I was the only one who thought in these terms.
Nice!  We percentage table keepers just needed a forum where it was safe to come out! 😂
Tomaswv, looks like our percentage breakdowns are pretty similar, although I overweight speakers a bit more than you and you overweight amps a bit more than me (perhaps because I’m not yet at a “separates “ level, still integrated).  Good stuff!
 This is embarrassing but I was referring to the post of three_easy_payments. Should have specified. My bad!
ebm's cut and paste response - love it, I chuckle every time!  but why did it take so long?
Generally speaking, over the years, even when I had Rogers LS35a and Quad ‘57 and Fulton floor-standers and Super Duper all tube electronics, much less today with a Sony Walkman portable battery-powered CD headphone system, I’d opine my system represented 30% of the total cost and tweaks the remaining 70%. Today, the percentages are almost certainly 5% system and 95% tweaks. Is that wrong?

A system             List 69K     Cost 38K


Integrated Amp    9.1%         13.8%

CD/Streamer     16.9 %         23.5%

Power Cond       11.8%           8.1%

Cabling               15%             20.9%

Speakers/sub    47.2%          32.6%

B system        List 15.1K       Cost 12.1K

Integrated Amp 27.8%              34.7%

CD                      9.9 %             12.4%

Power Cond     18.6%               13.2%

Cabling             18.8%                25.8%

Speakers/sub   23.8%               14.9%

Interesting to do but conclusive of nothing to me. I got what got. (Room treatments should be included but my wife and I differ.)  I needed a speaker cable run of 32 feet for one speaker in "A"system. (Both systems have the same PrimaLuna HP amp.) The "B" system amp is stock and "A" system amp has different tubes. No gear in "A"system was purchased used. Like many.....I know a guy. Speakers and power conditioner in "B" system were used. (I first used supplied cabling/connects on the "B" system and replaced with better ones.) Components of the "B" system came from "'A"

I have poor power and top Power Conditioners wanted/needed With this hobby want and need get very confused. That's my best con-clusion.

I am just getting started on this journey.  So, I don’t have much money invested to this point.  My strategy is to prioritize things, so that the money I do spend produces the most results.

For things I don’t prioritize:  Radio and, so far, phonograph. And tape not at all.  I listen to radio in the car or while working in the garage and yard — serious listening, not so much.  But I wanted the option, so I found a 40 year old Fisher tuner on Craigslist that the guy wanted $20 for.  When I got there, the tuner stopped going into stereo, so the guy gave it to me free.  I fiddled with it and got it working OK.  Phono:  I paid $280 for a Denon DP-300f with free upgrade to Ortofon 2M Red cart.  Another $140 or so on record washer, album sleeves, protractor and cart alignment chart and stylus TF scale..

Priorities:  Bought 2 Martin Logan 60XT towers for $2200.  Bought used Parasound A21 amp and used Parasound P5 pre-amp for $2100.  Bought Bluesound Vault 2i for $1300.  

Not Unimportant but not sweating:  Cables and surge protection.  Bought a Furman for about $90 and was gifted another Furman that cost about $55.  Tower cables around $50.  Sub cables around $85. XLR cables to connect amp and pre-amp around $35.  I figured that the effects of connections would be more crucial in higher-end set-ups than in my modest system.  So:

Speakers:        35%
Amp/Pre:         33%
Sources:          27%
Cables/Surge.   5%

Interesting thread, thanks, OP. Interesting too, that I also am coming back into the hobby (disease?) after a long hiatus.

I'll save the explanation and genesis of this system for another thread, but briefly, I wanted to see what sort of hifi system could be had for $2000. After a good bit of work, this is what I ended up with and the cost percentage breakdown:

Component         MSRP % Of Total Actual $ % Of Total
Integrated Amp
  (Music Hall 15.3a)                      $550      19%         $550   27%
CD Player/DAC
  (Music Hall 15.3c)                      $550      19%         $550   27%
  (Wharfdale Denton 80th)            $1,000   35%         $500   25%
  (Monoprice Monolith 32)            $140         5%         $140   7%
  (Kimber PBJ)                              $105         4%         $80    4%
Speaker Cable
  (Audioquest CV-4, 6ft)                $450        16%        $130  6%
  (damping, Sorbothane, sand)     $75            3%        $75   4%
                                                      $2,870                    $2,025  

hmmm.....never really thought about it before..

Speakers:          41%
Integrated Amp: 41%
Streamer/DAC:  10%
Cables:                8%
Sweet! But make sure to double check your addition, even if that adds a very long time to complete your list.