I would like to get some feedback on a system building approach I am considering pursuing. I currently have a decent setup (see bio) and over the next years I would like to take it to the next level and get more into the high end stuff.
Given that all elements in the complete system have their own sonic signature and will 'colour' the music somewhat (good or bad), it is difficult to predict how they will sound in synergy unless you are able to demo every component together in 1 system. Additionally the sound is highly dependent on the listening environment, and hence makes the option of try-before-you-buy impracticable, if not impossible. Also, replacing elements of your setup later on is always a risky task as it can be difficult to know how well they will mate with existing gear. Because of this I was thinking about the following approach which essentially halves the 'colouration' variables:
As a first step start with the speakers and power amp. Get something as accurate, detailed and uncoloured as possible, say, for example ATC SCM series speakers with either active amplification or paired with Bryston power amps (I know, not cheap, however you get every penny your pay for). With poor preamps/sources/recordings these will make your ears bleed however they are conveying to your ears exactly what you are feeding them.
Next, once you really 'know' the sound with your current source/preamp, start looking into preamps and DACs that are more suited to your particular tastes. Some want ultra clinical/detail, others want slight warmth/distortion, etc, etc, etc. Start experimenting with exotic preamps (passive, tube, etc) and DACs until you feel you have maximized the sound to your tastes and what your wallet will allow. You can be sure that the amplification/speakers will bring out every ounce of sonics you are feeding them.
In short, let the DAC/preamp drive the sonic signature of your system as these are easy to test drive and replace as time and tastes progress.
Thoughts on this would be appreciated!