No need to go with vintage gear, there are PLENTY of great, brand new products out there that are specifically designed for listeners and such as you have. Plus you get the un-deniable benefit of a warranty.
Speakers: Everyone is raving about the Tekton Lores, M-Lores, and Pendragons. For your room, the M-Lores would be very sweet. Approx. $699/pr.
Amp/Preamp: The Emotiva (internet-direct) electronics are universally praised for the high build quality, good sound, and *very* reasonable prices. Take a good look at their USP-1 preamp and also their UPA-200 amplifier. Both of these products "punch well above their weight" and are well-within your budget.
Emotiva is currently offering a 2-channel system that looks like a pretty good deal with the USP-1, UPA-200, and a pair of their XRT-5.2 Towers - $1177.00 delivered to your door! All these products have 5 year warranties, 30-day in-home trial, and free shipping.
I have some Emotiva gear and they are a great company to deal with - fair, honest, and truly willing to help if any problems arise.
I would spend a good deal more on your speakers than your amp. Speakers will make a far greater difference, as long as the amp is well matched for them.
Would do very nicely: Peachtree decco65 + Silverline Minuets. If you can bide your time you'll find one or both used here and save some bucks for more music downloads. The Harbeth P3ESR's (used) are really, really nice but pricey.
Small Dynaudio's(Excite X12's,Audience 42 or 52's)& a Peachtree Audio Nova Integrated Amplifier driven by either computer via USB or any half way decent DVD/CD Player through Toslink is guaranteed to put a smile on your face & stay within budget!
Are the speakers going to be able to be away from the walls or not? That will affect your choices.
Tekton M-Lores $699.00
Shuguange S300I - $799.00 (SET amp that uses 300B Tube) No Remote. Its is being closed out and is on sale for a considerable discount. I think they originally sold for $1000.00 You can upgrade to the Shuguange Tube Set upgrade that Granyt Fidelity sells at a later time. You can buy the S300I directly from Shuguange or Grant Fidelity
You didn't mentioned if you wanted a digital or analogue source.
The best source I can think of in your price range is a used Oppo95, they are selling for $800.00 and under (one listed now for $775.00) Since the release of the Oppo 105, the 95's are starting to sell. Before that you didn't see many (any) used for sale.
You can play all CD formatts, and more and more great music is being released on SACD.
Clear Day Speaker cables would be the ones I would look into ($350.00 for shot gun). My Audio Cable Company has a palladium interconnect ($179.00) that I think are hard to beat for the money. I think that adds up to around $2,800.00. Also you may want consider a Primalua Proloug 2 integrated amp (They sell used for $800.00) instead of the S300I, Its a better build then the S300I. The advantage of the Shuguange is the 300B SET circuit would make those M-Lores sing .
I recently suggested the following setup for a friend:
Speakers - Tekton M-Lores (Rlwainwright has suggested the same)
Integrated amp - Marantz PM 6004($599) or PM8004 ($999)
CD Player - Marantz SA 8004
Cables - Signal Cable
The Marantz CDP will allow you to use MP3 players using it's USB input on front and also computer audio using the digital inputs on it's back. And if you buy the cDP and amp from the same dealer, they will give you a good discount.
This should give you an awesome setup with great music for a long time.
Silverline Minuets are THE bomb in a room that small.
NEver heard Tekton M lore but like the design and approach.
I've been itching to try something high efficiency that are floor standing and larger than my tiny but game Triangle Titus monitors. How can you go wrong at that price? Nice!
The NHT Classic 3 speakers are excellent, and can be found for $400 new. List at $1000. I have a pair in a 11 x10 room and they work great. You could add a Classic 10 or 12 subwoofer for another $350. For an integrated amp with enough power, I would look at the Marantz or Musical fidelity. You can get both with a phono preamp included. for a turntable, I would get used Rega 3 with arm, VPI HW19 or Scout or a TOTL japanese direct drive from the 70s when they cared, especially if you wanted an auto table. Sony PS-x65 or 70 is excellent.
Taking the upper limit of your per component price range combined at $1800:
I'd look at something like Nola Boxers at $1500, and pair that with a solid used $300 integrated.
I like your suggestions. The Tekton M Lores matched with the Grant Fidelity 300b is really a nice musical route and special in this price range. Definitely would take Freddy down a different pathway compared to the usual stuff at a very reasonable cost.Quality 300b tubes can always be placed later down the road.Something to seriously consider.This system would the foundation to really have the music sing and connect you to the emotion of music.
Many thanks for your suggestions, you've been very helpful.
Are the speakers going to be able to be away from the walls or not? That will affect your choices
Well, unfortunately I wouldn't be able to place them any farther than 30-40 cm away from the wall. Does that necessarily entail having to go 'sealed box'?
By the way, I probably should have specified that I'm not from the US, and I wouldn't be able to audition or purchase those Tekton M-Lores and some other specifically US-manufactured gear except via ebay or something.
As for the source, I don't have one yet. I have a large FLAC music collection (as well as about 100 CDs), and I'm thinking of using a PC + DAC combo as a source first. If that option doesn't work for me in terms of sound quality, then I'll buy a CD player.
If your considering a PC for your source. There are two DAC's that Absolute Sound awarded the best in there budjet catagory. one was the Audioquest Dragonfly and the other was the MY DAC. You may want to read the reviews on those.
Another that comes to mind is Musical Fidelity, they have an entry level DAC that has seen it's share of good reviews.
Also Grant Fidelity has another 300B SET that has a better warranty and remote, it's a couple hundred more then the close out, may be a better option. The DAC's I refered to above are affordable, the savings may be put towards the newer 300B.
Also Absolute Sound reviewed an SS integrade that cost around $500.00, the reviewer saied it souned as good as anything he heard at $2,500.00 or under. I don,t remember the name but let me know if your interest and I will post it as soon as I can.
I tried to replace my Triangle Celius ESW twice, each time I kept the Triangles. I have since replaced (3rd attempt) the Celius with the newer Triangle 30th Anniversary Antal . The 30 Anniversary Comett was awarded class B by Sam Tellig. That speaker may be another one to consider. I bought mine through www.audiowaveshifi.com.
I would use a speaker with a front port if you are not using a sealed speaker. Maybe you could find a used pair of Proac Response 2 or a used front ported Spendor/Harbeth
PC + DAC should be fine for a source.