A 'First' System for my Son

I am considering the purchase of a 'first' audio system for my 18 year-old. Not sure if this will be a long-term interest for him, but I think there is some basic curiosity there.

Anyone have recommendations on a good starter system? I would definitely consider one of the 'all in ones', something like the Cambridge Audio One +. Not sure just how much true music fidelity this thing can offer, but it does have a headphone jack and an iPod dock. Or, maybe an all-in-one just won't cut it; I would consider spending a little more on separates. There are probably some good deals here on Audiogon. I'm not even sure if a CD player is really a necessity here. An iPod dock, a headphone jack, USB, or lossless MP3 ability is important. Suggestions?
My sons each have a NAD 320BEE amplifier and a pair of Paradigm Titans. The Titans are wall-mounted (with Smarter Speaker Supports) so to tame the boom from the rear port, the port is stuffed with a sock.

Both of them stopped using their CD players quite a while ago. Their source now is iTunes and a connection from their computers.

One guy uses a 2-meter Zu Pivot cable from the headphone output. This cable was a very nice upgrade from a $10 Radio Shack miniplug-to-twin RCA.

The other guy listens a bit more carefully. He has a Muse Audio TDA1543 outboard DAC and a TeraDak USB-to-S/PDIF converter. Cables are by Canare (the S/PDIF cable is 1.5 meters long) except the USB cable. That's by Audiogoner Acreyes.

If the source were to be an iPod and not the computer, I would suggest using a Zu Pivot cable, or one just as good, and a SendStation PocketDock. The PocketDock gives you a line out jack from the iPod's dock connector. It's a cleaner-sounding alternative to the iPod's headphone jack.

More recent NAD amps in the C320 series have a minijack input on the front panel. Using it just means you don't have a cable hanging off a rear-panel input.
I gave my 15-year-old grandson an old pioneer recvr, HK-8350 5 disc cdp, a pair of cheap Dayton Audio bookshelf speakers and a cable for his ipod. He's in audio heaven with this system. Remembering my first stereo I would have loved what he's got.
Tobias and Timrhu already pointed to the two options I was going to suggest. Each has its appeal, and you probably know which your son would like best. The new small NAD integrated (C 316BEE) has an iPod input on the front -- so does the Cambridge 350A and the new Music Hall a15.2. And there are lots of great-looking vintage receivers around. For speakers, the suggestions above are great. I have Cambridge S30s in my office. They're really nice, especially for the price ($219 new, around $125 when they come up used).
Go to Goodwill and get a receiver (Sony, Denon, I've seen Rotel there), a pair of bookshelf speakers, a Y cable to connect his iPod and you are good to go. He can use his DVD or game player for CDs.
I posted a want ad to my audio group for a cheap *turntable and was given a nice Pioneer in the box! by Vir....n.( He posts here, not sure if he wants everybody tapping into his generous nerve.) My son got a pair of JBLs for helping a friend.
I get more calls/texts (he never writes, he never calls!) from my son as he hunts the used record stores, than for fatherly advise- how to pay bills, keep the cold winds at bay, what color beer to buy, how to fight the girls off, which Lps play longest in order to sit next to the girl for a longer time before you have to get up to change the record, or vice...
It's a great way to stay in touch with a kid in college. and I love "visiting" him now that I know all the good used record stores in his college town.
But, although good advise has been shared above, I would not put too much expense into a system during this transitional and exploratory period. You can get some very good equipment for a few bucks and not worry too much if some beer, or ??? is spilled into the component.
*Make sure the receiver has a phono stage.
Here's a thought: Get a pair of Cakewalk (by Roland) powered monitors. They have RCA inputs, plus both coax and optical digital inputs for their built-in DAC. They also have a built-in headphone amp and headphone outputs. Lastly, they have tone controls so he can tone down the top end when listening to crappy compressed recordings.

These things are like a Swiss Army Knife of audio. They are a complete system (pre-amp, amp, dac and speakers) minus source devices.. You just need to attach the source components via either RCA analog connection and/or coax/toslink digital.

I think they are about $179 street price. I'm listening to mine right now. Oh, and I use them connected to my outdoor movie projector when we watch big screen movies in our back yard in the summer.

They are not full range as they are very small, but they have good resolution and good dynamics. If he's a headbanger, they are likely not going to have enough bass unless he uses the bass boost or bass tone control knob.
I would recommend a couple of different directions:
1- New Peachtree iDecco and Era4 speakers. Substitute a used Decco for less $$$, use a cable for the iPod.

2- Used vintage receiver and speakers. I would recommend a used Sansui 5000A or X and a pair of Klipsch KG-4s. That combo will rock the house down. You will need an external DAC for the iPod - the Musical Fidelity v-DAC or one of the HRT units are very inexpensive and sound great.

The advantage of the receiver route is that your son can also listen to FM (free music, what a concept!) and LPs if he is ever so inclined. That's how I started off my kids and they listen to more music mor ethan they watch TV by far.
Figure out how much you're willing spend and schedule a time to take him shopping to listen to different equipment with a not to exceed budget. Get him what he wants. The most important thing is that he have some investment in the system or it won't mean anything to him. Don't do the shopping for him, just provide advice.
Audioengine A5 powered speakers. Provide iPod and done.
easing him into some very inexpensive but potentially good or even great vintage stuff may encourage him to take an interest, while integrating the modern sources will also give him an appreciation for technogy and how to make it all work together well. I tried to get my guys interested in a really old amp/pre setup i had and still have and they wouldn't go for it or the vinyl either but they're not 'old' just yet. some of their friends were there years ago and i cant keep those guys out of the living room.
Why not pick up a vellman stereo amplifier kit under $75 with an off the shelf transformer. Easy step by step directions just some soldering. great father son project...listening to somthing you built always worked for me and you can theme the amp box from Yankees to pokemon.. also will drive most bookshelf speakers and can run right from his mp3 player. Enjoy your time with him and the music.
Interesting thread and great advice. I echo the concept of getting the child involved in the decision process and financial investment. Couple of thoughts:

1. Peachtree decco 2 with era speakers is very good system.

2. Pair of Sonos S5 with music controlled by ipod touch or iphone

3. Audioengine 5 with ipod

I have five kids and the above three routes are the most successful with my kids The Sonos route is the easiest, sounds surprising good, and the software allows you to mate the two speakers into a stereo pair (my twelve year loves this system.) The two kids who are most likely likely to become audiophiles, like the more versatile and more expensive, of course, and best sounding Peachtree combo. Interestingly, the most popular by far, among my kids' friends (my kids ages range between 24 and 12 years) is the Audioengine. I can not tell you how many of my kids' friends (and my non-audiophile friends) buy these easy to set-up active speakers after hearing them.

Respectfully submitted,

Give him advice, but let him pay for his own system. In the long run he'll appreciate it more.
I fixed my boys up with NHT M-OO monitors w/ S-OO sub and old NAD preamps attached to their computers. Speakers and monitors are internally powered. Both systems sound quite good but I seldom hear either one because the boys use their Grado headphones instead.

Save yourself headaches and expense by starting him with a decent pair of headphones and a preamp with headphone jack. He'll dig the privacy and you will remain safe from his music choices. All kids are used to digital music banks and will choose them as preferred sources. Hard copies of music will never be obsolete because of eccentric collectors and hard core hobbyists but they aren't in the plans of most of our children.
"Figure out how much you're willing spend and schedule a time to take him shopping to listen to different equipment with a not to exceed budget. Get him what he wants."

That's great advise. Nice post Mceljo. To me, choosing a stereo for your son, when there is only a "basic curiosity" there, would be a lot like fixing him up with a girlfriend. Does he like to listen to your rig with you? The more you can share about your sons interests in music, the more successful we will be in advising you. One thought: If, in general, he has a technical fascination for things and what makes them work, a simple tube amp kit might be cool.
Some thing with a turnatable involved , meaning not everything that is new is better
I have 2 teenage sons. I set each up with a small tube amp and a pair of goodwill speakers - Old Pioneers and old Radio Shack. No CDP, no TT needed. They do not need more than 10 watts in a small bedroom.
They listen to them all the time, almost as much as I listen to my system. They're friends think the systems are pretty cool and think they sound great.
Absolutely no need to go overboard because their point of reference is iPod headphones, car stereos, and crappy stereos.
let your son pick it out..his point of view, etc.
My office system would be perfect.

Cambridge 340A
Cambridge iD Ipod dock
Cambridge Sirocco S30 monitors

Great synergy in the gear. Superb sound on a budget.

optional other gear
Cambridge 340C (great inexpensive cd player that I have in my system)
Cambridge 340T (good inexpensive tuner, but probably not necessary for most; we have great public radio stations with high quality indie, jazz, and classical programming)
I second the headphone option simply because it is the best way to provide the best sound for lowest financial output. I am in the process of selling off my 2-channel speaker system and adopting headphone listening. I am planning to go back to school and can't haul it off with me. However, I have discovered, to my amazement, that at lower headphone/amp priceipoints I am reaping greater sonics than I did from my ~10000.00 (used) system.
Going this route, you will reveal to your son more tangible reasons for this audio pursuit thing. He will better understand the high end with less of an outlay by you. And he will be better equipped to move forward on his own.
Kids + Headphones = Be Careful!