$1500 for a whole system, budding audiophile

Just imagine you're in high school now. You're going to budget $1500 on Amplification, speakers, and a source/ sources. Where do you spend your money to get you through college and an entry level job? Let's assume you have the computer covered and not include cables or headphones in the budget. New? Vintage? Mix of both?
I'd buy it all used unless I got a great deal on new equipment. I'd get an int. amp and some floorstanders which have great bass. (Paradigm comes to mind.) For a source, tuners are cheap and plentiful. Same for CD players. $300 int. amp., $3-400 spks., $100 or less tuner., $200 CDP. No problem at all for the budget.
Also, don't exclude new equipment from online makers that do not have any distributorship for their products (Emotiva comes to mind...and sometimes they have various holiday sales).
I fully support starting this hobby of enjoying music and good sound from a young age. Heck, by the time I was 7 I was the only person in the family who knew how to connect the different parts of my parents' stereo to play and record from various sources.

However, if I were shopping for a system for a high school student, I would be under the assumption that this person would soon be going to college. And once in college they would have a tiny dorm room, and if they were anything like me, moving 1-3 times per year. (I think I must have moved 6-8 times during my 4 years in college.)

So I'd be looking for something practical, unobtrusive, and portable. To be honest, that probably means powered computer speakers, since a young person nowadays will be playing it from a computer, iPod, or smart phone. If it must be a more traditional system, then I would look for a used integrated amp + DAC or receiver coupled with a used pair of small monitor speakers (PSB Stratus Mini's or Usher S-520's, for instance).

Get the Rega BRio R an NAD CD player and the Dali Zensor bookshelf speaker. Doable for $1500 and will provide quality audiophile experience.
I recently gave a Hegel H70 to my son. At around $1,000 used, has built in Dac. He can use USB or spidf. I listened to the Hegel for about a week and was impressed. Find some old beat up classic speaker, I gave my son my Polk sda crs, maybe old Vandersteen 2 and your there. For $50 you can get a Pioneer DVD v-7400 to use as a transport, and is not bad as a cd player. You only need digital cable and speaker wire.

Btw, the Hegel made the Polks sound better than I had ever heard them. Maybe add a better dac later.

Hope this helps...
I'd go for a mix. You might consider a) Klipsch Heresy speakers ($300-$500 used); b) Marantz PM5004 (integrated amp, about $450 new); c) Marantz CD5004 (about $350 new) and, d) Project Debut Carbon (about $400 new). You do NOT need to spend big bucks to get fine sound. This collection of stuff would be $1500 to $1700 as stated, and less if you went used on everything. Personally, I try to avoid used electronics with the exception of speakers, but that's just me. Cheers.
If the computer is covered and you are using it as a source, I'd get a USB DAC. Schiit has one for around $100 and there are other nice options out there. I am anxiously awaiting the release of the iFi iDSD, which you could also use in a portable set up.

Then I'd look at a sub-$400 receiver/integrated amp. Rega Brio-R would be a good option, as would a nice vintage receiver. Think Panasonic has a nice integrated that they have paired with their SP-BS22-LR speakers at shows. There are also some nice amp kits and assembled amps from Class D Audio. I use one of these as a back-up amp and it sounds great.

If you want a turntable, I'd look at the U-Turn Orbit. Just released. Or go vintage, but there are risks of vintage turntables breaking down, needing repairs and that can get expensive.

AND THEN... blow the rest of your cash on speakers. Best bang for your buck. Due to shipping costs, you may be best off shopping local. If you are very lucky you could get a used pair of the excellent KEF LS50s for about $1000. Though likely used they will be a bit higher than that. But overall, looking for speakers locally will also allow you to audition them. Speakers can be a very personal choice. Beware jumping on a recommended speaker from a forum post without having an idea of what the recommender's preferences are. What kind of music does this person listen to and what qualities in the music are most important to that person? Some people are very interested in quality bass, others obsess about imaging and soundstage. Some like a more forward sound, some like a more laid back sound.

So spend the largest chunk of change on those speakers, but be sure to audition as many as possible before you pull the trigger and buy. Also be aware that speakers need to be well matched to the room, and that you will want to wait on buying an amp until you have your speakers picked out, as amp-speaker matching is also very important. Some speakers need some real power to sound their best, more efficient speakers can take many fewer watts and still sound great.

Hope this helps. Even though much discussed here can be very, very high dollar, it is absolutely possible to put together an excellent system with the budget you cited.
I believe I mentioned this set-up on a previous post. A used Denon-DRA-CX3 receiver/Denon-DCD-CX3 cdp gives you solid build/sound quality with adequate power(150w/ch/4ohms). With about $500 left many used monitors come to mind but stands are critical and costly. You can't beat a Magnepan MMG at it's price point. A lightly used one will knock around $100 off retail and gives you a jump start with speaker break-in!
Sufen makes many good points. Many 1st year college students live in dorm, then move out to apartment. Either way space issue and the ability to get the most from a $1500 system is difficult. Another issue is that many other associates one makes in college lack the appreciation/respect due such a system.

To the question:
I would purchase a high quality late model integrated amp used. Amplification is a mature science. A quality one can last through several speaker upgrades. A quality used amp at $700-$800 would well serve a $1500 system today and a $2500 system later. Spend ~50% budget here.

There are many high quality budget speakers available. Price ranging from the Pioneer SP-22 at $130, to Warfdale 10.1 at $350, to B&W 685 at $650, new. AS speakers tend to establish the sound character of a system to a greater extent than other components, and a young budding audiophile likely doesn't yet know what sound characteristics he/she like most, I would not allocate much over 25% of 1st system budget to speakers. I would look at used, dealer demo, or new. One thought, buy the Pioneers now, they are special for the money, save the ~$250, use them as reference when auditioning more expensive speakers. If they were to get damaged, not as great a loss.

Purchase A DAC with the remaining 25% budget. Can serve both a disk player and computer as server. Many older used DACs are great, the weak link being the USB/SPdif conversion. Many new budget USB/SPDIF converters are available to upgrade this function. I would buy used here also as digital products suffer the most severe price drop once purchased. Would need a DAC with 2 SPDIF inputs if using USB converter and a disk player as transport.

I read your post as a query for more general advise than for specific product recommendations . I am hesitant to recommend specific products as there are far more that I have not experienced, than I have. I great system can be had for $1500. I have had great luck shopping here on AG. Buy from those with good feedback, know value of product.

As a side, I recently listened to the Pioneer SP-22 coupled to the NAD D3020 amp/DAC driven by my Macbook pro with inexpensive cables. Sounded wonderful for $650.
+1 on the Acman3 recommendation of the Hegel D70 with onboard dac.
Many options. A major determinant is the number of sources - CDP, tuner, and/or turntable - and not amplification. I put together two similarly priced systems for a friend, each based around Spica TC-50s but with different electronics. TC-50s are classics that can often be had for $250. I would also include a decent pair of headphones.
Check out Music Direct online. Currently have several brands on sale. Focal speakers, Marantz integrateds, iFi components, Musical Fidelity. Just received catalog and thought of your post, not affiliated.
What are the sources he has now? If he has lots of cd's and no vinyl or cassettes, then maybe you'd cut out the TT or cassette deck. Let's figure out what sources he'll need and then you can maximize the system. You can definitely get an awesome used system with vintage and new gear. Let us know more about his needs and we can direct you better.
I have not heard one, but have read nothing but good about the Arcam Solo Music. AM/FM receiver and cd player in one. I have considered buying one of them used for a bedroom system, but it should work well in this capacity as well. If one is patient, they can be found for less than $1000 on the used market shipped. That would leave $500 for speakers and speaker cables. The Solo Music is 4 ohm capable so there are many musically satisfying speakers available and compatible in your price range. The speaker choice would depend on sonic and aesthetic preferences then (floor stander or stand mount, bass quantity vs quality, type of music listened to, intended volume range, etc.).
I would put 400 into a used amp like a nad 3020, put 1200 into speakers like tekton lore or golden ear, then I second the idea of the schitt dac for 100 assuming you have a computer. There are many other ideas but I think putting as much as possible of your budget into speakers is the best way to go.
Personally if I started over for that dollar amount I would purchase:

Musical Paradise MP-301 mkIII - $400
Tekton Mini-Lores $650
Emotiva XDA-2 DAC - $250

That leaves about $200 to spend on your choice of budget cables...
I go the opposite of most people and put more into the electronics and less into the speakers. You can get awesome speakers for not a lot of money. I bought an $1200 pair of Celestion C100's for $200 in the past and have gotten other great deals on speakers. $400 for spkrs, $5-600 for int tube amp, $200 for 24 bit DVD player as cd player, $400 on TT
Used Peachtree Decco or Nova + Triangle Titus speakers (used) + subwoofer of your choice (if needed) and still maybe some money left for whatever else.
+1 on the MuFi on clearance:

M1 CliC and M1 PWR Bundle $999.00
Sony BDPS790 Blu-Ray $248.00
Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Speakers $127.00
Bulk AQ speaker cable & ICs $100.00

If you can go a bit over substitute these for
the Pioneer Speakers. B&W 685: $650.00

I took the same approach as you when I put together my first system when I was just out of school. I went with a Denon AV 2803 Receiver with NHT Classic 3 Speakers. If you can find a clean Denon 2807 for about $165.00 that route might also be something to consider.
I love this thread. Budget audiophilia, oh things you can think of and play with. Takes me back to when i was a kid.
I recently did a little system to see what i could build on a similar budget, for a study. Taking into account some Monitor Audio Radius 270 floor standers i already had in my garage I added to them to build my system. I bought these speakers on clearance a few years ago for $350 (they were about $1000retail before that). I also had a 720 monitor Audio radius subwoofer with them that i added. Cost $200.
I added a Krell kav-300i that i picked up in excellent condition off ebay for $800
I then won an auction on a near perfect condition Marantz NA-7004 network player for $280 this was $800 new then had a price drop to$499 and provides excellent warm sound to the bright krell and monitor audio combo.

So I ended just over $1600 but it is a very nice little, stylish and compact system with great detail and better than average sound.

I would probably swap out the speakers one day but I. wouldn't know what would sound best or what to get yet.
a good reciever like a Yamaha or Onkyo, JBL Studio L890 floorstanders, Onkyo C-7030 cd player...that leaves a turntable and cart. I guess go for the Audio Technica. That's what I would pick with that kind of money.
Yes, I agree with Lou_setriodes. I can go out on CL any given week and find some great speakers at very low prices. Also, some of the older speakers still have some great value and sound quality. To me, the electronics are harder to find so I would save the bulk of my budget for a DAC/preamp and an amp.
Find a used OPPO 105. Have seen them in the $800 - $850 range occasionally. Then buy a pair of KRK Rokit 8 active studio monitors for $500 brand new and run them straight off the OPPO. Mogami balanced patch cords will round out a very impressive $1500 system.
I spent $1500.00 on a power cord.
Enormous Bucks, Man!!!
Patrickrealtor76 appeared to be asking for advice for himself or a friend as to how to maximize a listening experience on a limited budget. He seemed sincere and asked politely. So what do some of you do? You choose to mock him for having a puny budget.

Maybe the next time someone starts a thread wondering why so few new people enter this hobby, you'll be on hand to clarify things for him. Unless they can start with more money than you have invested, you will embarrass them right on back to Amar.
Thank you Pgawan2b, recently an old friend contacted me and told me her husband was looking for a pair of JBL 4311's on ebay and what I thought of it. He's an old school guy and has been out of audio for many years but has some nostalgia for these. I picked out about 8 speakers from the local CL that were much less expensive than the JBL's that would completely smoke them. I guess it's most important if you know what to look for. I think a lot of people these days are not that knowledgeable, it's a dying hobby that's being taken over by bluetooth speakers and convenience...or everyone just thinks the latest is still the greatest.
Macrojack (and to the OP) - My post was a response to EBM. I hate that elitist BS
(not that I'm one of the "Occupy Wall Street knuckleheads, either). I did not
intend any sort of mockery of the OP's budget. Sorry for any offense to the OP
my attempt at wit caused. I think $1500 carefully spent on used could buy a
nice sounding entry level system. I'd probably spend $750 on speakers, $500
on amp and $250 on a CDP...or something close to that prioritization-wise.
Patrick - a quick 5 minute check of used items here on A'gon using the $
allocated as I suggested found: Meadowlark Kestrel, a couple of Vandersteens
and Klipsch speakers in the $750 range; a Plinius 8200 MkII for $500; a Denon
DVD3D910, Sony DVPS7700 and NAD C516BEE for $200-$250. OK...not
necessarily "careful" but intended as "proof of concept".
+1 Lou_setriodes
Not everyone has more money than brains. We should be encouraging more people to get into this hobby at what ever level they can afford to get in at, not mock them for not having enough money to be a "true audiophile".
Just to clarify my intentions. I am not a college student, nor am I seeking advice for a particular "college student" I'm 38 years old and have had an interest in audio and video since my early teens. Most of my focus was put into A/V systems in my 20s and early 30s, having lived in apartments and condos until 6 years ago. When I moved to a single family home I finally had the room to set up a 2 channel system, something I had wanted to do for a long time. I haven't updated my current system on my member profile for some time, but the equipment I had was my newbie 2 channel stuff from 5 years ago. When I look back at the equipment I have purchased over the years (several old components in various states of repair stacked in my basement) I realize many of the choices I made satisfied a desire at that time, but my money could have been spent more efficiently with items I could include in an upgrade path, later as part of a secondary system, or could recover maximum value on resale. When I look at the equipment that's out now and include my knowledge about where to spend my money, upgrade paths, etc I wish I could go back to my 15 year old self and say, forget about that Dolby Pro-Logic Receiver and get yourself a clean vintage Sansui... I thought this would be a fun exercise because I think we all would have changed our path if we could go back.
Patrickrealtor76; I'm actually doing this right now for an office system. When I'm finished, I'll have about $1500 in it. Earlier this spring I couldn't pass on a super clean pair of Boston Acoustics A200s for $300 so those are my speakers. However, I just went out and checked my CL and found M&K, B&W, Polk Monitor 10b, Paradigm, Thiel, and PSB speakers; all reasonably priced and some appear to be in excellent condition. I have a Coda Model 10 amp and a Brick Wall surge protector. Now I'm just trying to decide the source. I tested an Oppo 103 direct to the amp which sounded decent at moderate volumes, but not as good at low volumes. And since it is an office where I'm supposed to work, I need something that sounds good at low volume levels. So now I'm thinking about a DAC/preamp. I'll probably give the Emotiva DC-1 and the Monarchy Audio 18B a listen next. I like the idea of the dual mono design of those DACs.
I did an office system that consists of the following and sounds very good.

$300 Kenwood KD-500 turntable with Sumiko Premier MMT tonearm
$150 Unsed Sumiko Alchemist MC Cartridge
$100 Rotel Phono Preamp
$650 Roksan Caspian Integrated
$200 Fried A/3 Speakers
$100 Speaker Stands

Take a look at my office system
Active monitors run directly off of your laptop. Simple, inexpensive, wonderful, done! For example, I outfitted my office with a pair of Adam F7 monitors ($900) connected directly to my laptop headphone output with inexpensive cable. Adam makes a sub specifically for their F7 monitors, though I've yet to feel the need for it - satisfied 95% of the time thus far without it. Had I more coin to splurge on audio I'd consider the sub and perhaps a USB DAC as well. But very satisfied thus far with just the monitors.