$1130 system for a musician, please :

What integrated amplifier and what speakers should I look for?
I won't need more than 60-65W (I mean for how big is my room)
I WILL need imaging, clarity, natural sound and as analytical as posible, BUT NOT fatiguing. I would like to be aerial.

It will be used for auditioning classical: especially piano, drums, vocals and large orchestras.

My priorities: 1. mids to be very well reproduced
and 2. Equally highs and lows (I won't like to be overexposed the lows over highs - as is the current mode)

I would prefer to be new products as long as I am parelel with electronics, but I am open to suggestions for used products too.

Thank you very very much

A timid musician
Assuming the $1130 is for speakers and amplifier only.

Spendor S3/5 (used), Axiom M3Ti (new), Mission 72 (new). Spendors are best of lot with more detail and better treatment of vocals and strings. Bit shy on bass. Axioms are best value with more bass and general command at their price of just $275/pr. Missions will sit in the middle with better midrange treatment than the Axioms but not as quick.

Integrated amplifier could only be the NAD BEE320 (new) which is ridicuulously good for the money. Left money for jumpers and right stands for speakers.
The Athena AS F2 speakers are on close out at Audio Advisor and Best Buy- can be had for under 400 new. These are shockingly good for their price- sensitive and tube friendly, absolutely non-fatiguing and honestly full-range with really tight bass. They have a very smooth coherent mid-range and slightly muted highs- sound great with any style of music. I just set these up in my finished garage with a used Antique Sound Labs AQ1001 integrated tube amp running in triode mode (30 wpc) This is one of the most satisfying and fun combinations I have owned, and cost less than 1000. Other tube integrateds from Jolida, Cayin, or Ming Da should also be a good match with the Athena's. For solid state, integrateds from creek, used naim, lfd mistral, arcam etc should also work well with these speakers.
I am answering as though your total budget is $1130, although you only ask for advice on amp and speakers. I'm including a CDP recommendation but you may already have one.

I would start with the best CD player I could afford, perhaps a Music Hall MMF-CD25. (The source is where I think you should put most of your money, because resolution lost there cannot be restored later on in the chain. Yes, some people do say spend most on speakers, but I'm not one of them.) Price on these second-hand is about $375 here.

Then I would look for a 20 to 30-watt tube integrated in good shape. A Dyna SCA-35 on eBay is one option. These were discontinued years ago so you'll have to buy used. One that's been looked after and upgraded will cost you $250-$350.

You'll need small (because low-cost) but efficient speakers and I would look for a pair of Paradigm Titans, PSB Alpha Minis or, best, Acoustic Energy Aegis 1s. $150-$200 here.

That leaves money over for cables. I say Audioquest Type 4 or Canare 4S11 for the speakers and Wireworld, Van den Hul or Zu Cable for interconnects. The speakers will need stands, too. Later you can add an upmarket (or homebuilt!) power cord to the CD player.

You can get all this home under budget if you are patient and thorough. It will give you the midrange you want first off, and above all it will be musical--you will want to listen. Although the bass and treble extension you also want will have to come later, your perception that modern fashion is for too much bass suggests to me you can accept that. While you wait, this equipment will hold much of its value.
Thank you very much!!!

I have to specify 2 things:
a) this budget is only for integrated and speakers
b) I need high-definition @ low volume levels (I live in an apartement)
--An NAD 370 integrated amp,used,here on audiogon for under 500.

--Magnepan MMG's new,575 used 400 plus shipping.

--The cheapest circuit city/best buy loss leader disk player with a digital out. When you can afford to add it,add a Scott Nixon dac for 250 dollars.
A pair of closeout Soliloquy 5.0's from Underwood HiFi here on Audiogon, http://cls.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?spkrmoni&1087265953, and the best used Creek or Rotel integrated you can find for the other $600.
As a musician you would be thrilled with the sound of the Jean Marie Reynaud Twin Mk IIIs loudspeakers at around $800 new. Maybe a second hand Arcam Alpha 10 (the preamp section is of lesser quality than the power amp section, but you can use a outboard preamp with the Arcam - something for down the track).

Gee, I just described my bedroom system. ;-)


Know you mentioned "integrated amp"... But why?
How about a radically different recommendation?


1) Used Mackie HR824 powered studio monitors (ebay). Pro-audio gear used in MANY professional studios. The CD you are listening to was probably mixed on these, so you would be hearing it just as the artist intended. Also makes a great audiophile home speaker. These speakers have the amplifiers built into them (actually they are bi-amp'ed). They allow RCA (unbalanced) or XLR (balanced) connections. Excellent highs, mids, and bass... no sub required. Easy to tune to your room via switches on the back panel. Do a google search on 'Mackie HR824 review'.

2) Used Cal Audio CL-15 CDP. This excellent CD player has a preamp built into it. Comes in RCA or XLR versions. Excellent internal DAC as a 'digital-in', allowing you to attach another digital device.

This very simple system could fit your budget (used) and would be VERY difficult to beat for the money.

Check it out!
I am also a musician with similar tastes, although I rarely listen to piano. I have made a hobby of auditioning budget gear. I have decided while there is a very real difference between good budget gear and the high priced, it is not enough of a difference for me personally. That being said, I have settled on the following. (Prices are new, you can do much better on Audiogon)

Integrated Amp: NAD C320Bee ($399)
Speakers: PSB Image 2B ($399)
PSB Subzero ($329)

I am very pleased with this system and I believe it will do me well for a quite a while. While I was hesitant to add the sub, it was the final step to getting the sound I wanted. It is rarely heard, but it seems to free up the monitors to handle the mid and high's with more detail. You need good stands for the monitors. I tried without and there was quite a difference. I made my own because, for the money, I didn't think what was available was worth it.

Hope this helps.
I personally would buy some floorstanders instead of stand-mounted spks. I have always more pleased w/soft domed tweeters as well, especially if your electronics are not on the warm stand. Not having heard the new NAD C-320 Int. amp, it seems like a fair price for what you're getting. My own personal experience w/int. amps is that the most musical one I've ever owned is the Kora Explore 90Si (w/telefunkens replacing stock JAN/phillips tubes). Another superb older int. amps are 80's Sony "ACT" "Legato" models which for the $ are unbeatable. The bargain in floorstanders are IMO older Snell's. Very musical/easy to drive/and real wood veneers cabinents. If I were to buy a floorstander, I would also consider the Mission Freedom 752. (I'm basing this on what I've heard about them.) Not long ago here there was a set of MINT condition ones for $449! Man was I tempted to buy them! Good luck in your search.
I would look at Underwoodhifi.com at Soliloquy speakers and an integrated Jolida integrated - you will have a very musical midrange and most likely an even treble and bass response with that speaker matchup... should be able to be within your budget with even a new integrated perhaps...
Also, if you give Walter you budget you are working with at Underwoodhifi.com he will give you an honest opinion within you range whether he sells it or not. IF you have doubts, read his feedback...

Good luck on your search.
Hello radrum,

I'm going to suggest two somewhat unorthodox systems, one planar and one high efficiency, and you can decide if one of these makes sense for you.

Planar system speakers - Maggie MMG's, $550 factory-direct or $400 ballpark used. Very natural and non-fatiguing sound, though not the last word in analytical. Excellent pitch definition in the bass but not a whole lot of impact due to their dipole radiation pattern - but then this puts less bass out into the environment, which is an advantage for apartment dwellers. One of the main drawbacks is the MMG's like a lot of power. So...

Planar sytsem amplifier - Used Aragon 4004 or 2004. Aragon amplifiers synergize very well with Maggies.

Planar system preamplifier - No specific recommendation, but there's a used Bottlehead listed now for $200 that looks promising.

The main feature of this system is the Maggie MMG. Magnepan offers a 60-day money back guarantee, and you can't beat that. I think the MMG should be outlawed - no $550 a pair speaker has any business sounding as good as it does. As a possible alternative to the Aragon/preamp combo, you might consider a used Arcam integrated amp. Get the biggest one that will fit into your budget.

Okay, now on to the high efficiency system (which unlike the first consists of stuff I sell):

High efficiency system speakers: Omega Super-3, retails for $550 a pair, 93 dB efficiency. Single full-range 4" driver in a to-my-knowlege unique soft fiberboard box that is very well damped. Surpasses the MMG in coherence, liveliness, and low-level articulation. The MMG is better at medium-high to high volume levels with complex passages (where the little Omega gets a bit congested), and the MMG has a more forgiving presentation. The little Omega is better at low volume levels, and images very nicely. Unfortunately, you'd probably need stands as well.

High efficiency system integrated amplifier: JoLida 102B, about 18 watts real-world, uses very nice sounding EL84 output tubes. Retail $580, with optional subwoofer output jack for $50 more.

Neither of these sytems "does it all", but they both can make the magic happen without distracting you from it with boxy colorations (which are pretty much epidemic at this price level). The little Omega is the first speaker I've found in the price ballpark of the MMG that I think can compete with the baby Maggie, but even then it's a matter of personal preference as to which would serve you best. I'd be glad to take a shot at any questions you might have.

Best wishes to you on your quest!

Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 are $328 shipped. Very clear, dynamic and analytical. These speakers would cost $1,000+ if they had wood veneer and were sold by a brick and mortar dealer. Less harsh than pro studio monitors IMHO but they are still very precise.
I would suggest a used Arcam integrated to sofetn them up a bit. That will go for about $500-600 used. I used a $189 [www.harmanaudio]Harmon Kardon HK 3470[/url] 110 wpc receiver with excellent sound considering the cost. With the HK 3470, highs had some "artificial sheen" violins get a bit rough / bass could use the sub outs and get a powered subwoofer if that is important.
Thank you very much everyone.

Unfortunatelly I don't like NAD neither Panasonic.

Also I don't like NHT, PSB or Athena.

Anu other opinions?

Thank you
It's never easy to make recommendations without knowing exactly what the person who has paid the compliment of asking has actually heard.

NHT has been making speakers for some time, and PSB has too, so there are a lot of models on the market from these two makers alone, if you consider buying second-hand. They are not all bad. Perhaps you have heard some models in unsuccessful combinations.

IMHO there are some very interesting recommendations here. They strike me as coming from the horse's mouth : that is, the posters have heard what they are talking about. In turn, that gives you a lot to explore.

A wise audiophile once told me that the pleasure of audio was not in having wonderful music through great equipment. It is having wonderful music through great equipment *at bargain prices*.

It takes a long time and a lot of experience to build up the knowledge required to make the right decisions. I'm happy to share the little I know, and more important, I'm very lucky to have access to so much hard-won experience from others who know more than I do.

Perhaps you have not yet heard the kind of sound you would one day like to have. I think this is an essential part of the process. After you have this experience, you can listen to cheaper equipment and decide which of its weaknesses you can accept, and which you cannot live with. You are also able to state more clearly just what you are looking for.

No matter whether the suggestions here are gold or dross to you, in the last analysis you will have to make up your mind with your ears.
radum -- give some thought to Audiokinesis suggestions. If you use acoustic instruments, you'll like either system. You'll also like the Reynauds Metralla mentioned above.
What do you think about Cambridge Azur 640A and about JMLab Chorus 706 S?

IS this combinition good?

Thank you