For my mind then, I covet these things more than what a better amplifier or DAC will bring. Enormous scale that will do full justice to a large orchestra, bass weight that will hit you in the chest when required, endless layered depth and soundstaging that three dimensionally fills the entire room and beyond. These are things that ONLY an expensive and large speaker will give you. Of course better amplification and sources are wonderful and bring many delicious things to the party but the cheapest equipment from the best brands is just so good now that I will take the multitude of benefits of the best speaker all day long. Even the entry equipment from Vitus for example is easily good enough for a £20-£25k Tidal Piano or Transcedant and the Vitus Signature range really needs the same or even better to fully show off what it can do.
Think about it, when we were all told “source is the most important” back in the 1980’s it was kind of partially true because that £250 Marantz CD player from Richer Sounds was complete crap and a Linn Sondek with a Basik and K9 also appalingly bad. Things have changed an awful lot since then, even in the last 5 years hifi has progressed leaps and bounds ! Nowadays, you can pick up a DAC for under £1000 secondhand which is phenomenal compared to the sound of yesteryear. We put the little £3000 Exogal Comet DAC we sell well ahead of most of the £10,000-£20,000 flagship CD players of last decade. It would probably beat most turntable/phonostage combinations as well that we all used to rave about so much. Similarly with amplifiers, something like the Vitus RI-100 integrated is an incredible piece of kit, giving a sound that is better in all respects that the present day flagship pre and power from many a rival company at 2,3 or even 4 times the price. And look at the reasonably priced Well Tempered Amadeus. We don’t sell these but what a sensational sounding deck it is, preferable to many designs costing 5 figures plus.
Partly because they involve different labour intensive manufacturing techniques speakers haven’t gotten any cheaper. The entry point really for a good highend design is about £10,000 and then they go up from there right up to 6 figures and beyond. They cost a lot more than amplifiers or digital sources therefore you should spend more on them rather than less to balance things. The phono stage is the same, it’s so important and there is such a large financial spread between the worst and the very best, that we advocate spending at least 50-100% as much on one as your turntable, compromising on the arm/cart if necessary. Think about it, what would you rather be listening to, 100% of a 7/10 signal or 30% of a 10/10 signal.
If you desire all the incredible goodies that a large enclosure floorstander like an Avalon Compas or a Tidal Contriva will give you then there is no substitute or shortcuts and with the rest of the system components being available for far less money but still at a very competent level of sound quality, I would always choose to get the best possible speaker I could then build the system around it.