Here's what I would do ---
I would use a computer for your front end. Rip your CD's to the hard drive, uncompressed. Then, get a top notch USB DAC like the Apogee Mini-Dac. Then, get powered speakers like Mackie HR824 -- buy them used and you can stay within your budget. Now, you only need to buy a pair of XLR balanced interconnects. This whole system will come in for the same budget you're talking about and it will compete with traditional systems costing two or three times as much. You get the technological advantages of internal bi-amping, active crossovers, jitter-free digital, wonderful sounding DAC, the elimination of speaker cables, balanced line level signal and interconnects.
Computer -- $1,000
Apogee Mini-Dac -- $1,000
Mackie HR824 -- $1,000
Balanced XLR interconnects -- $20
Rsbeck has a nice plan and fine recommendations. I'll give you an alternate (and there are many) should you want to stick with tangible discs for playback. I'd juggle your budget a bit differently than you laid out and stick to used gear.
Jolida JD-100 CD Player $600 used
Quicksilver Mini-Mites (25 watt mono amps)$650 used
Audible Illusions 3A $1000 used
Soliloquy 5.3 Floorstanders $800 used
Signal Cable Speaker wire @ $140 for biwire
Home Depot (TAS) extension cord @ $20
This would be a VERY rewarding system IMO
Sure, what you're talking about is certainly possible and quite a few people here have put together systems in that price range that are extremely enjoyable. It takes obsessive monitoring of the used equipment ads, lots of auditioning and/or swapping out of gear to find what suits you and being honest with yourself about both what your really hear and what you can afford.
I'm absolutely thrilled with my current setup. It replaced a much more expensive batch of gear when I moved into a much smaller space and the sound is better in every way, mostly because I'd learned a lot in the couple of years between putting together the two systems. Here's what I've got, with the prices I paid, all used:
ProAc Response 1s speakers - $525
HSU VTF-2 subwoofer - $350
Audio Refinement Complete integrated - $550
Music Hall CD25 with opamp upgrade - $400
Dh Labs Air Matrix interconnect - $100
Dh Labs Q10 shotgun biwire cables - $225
Sanus speaker stands, sand filled - $130
I like everything about what I'm now hearing and am content to wait until I can spend three times the money to try to make an improvement.
There could be literally hundreds of combinations of high-quality, fairly-priced stuff that have a similar total cost. It just takes some effort to find the one that thrills you. Finding that combination for yourself at a price you consider a real bargain has its own satisfaction, beyond the satisfaction you'll get from the listening.
Rsbeck makes a very valid suggestion. But in the more traditional approach, I would suggest that there is a middle ground that can be very satisfying.
It takes patience, but attractive deals do come along. You must know what you are looking for and be prepared to jump without hesitation.
Believing that Robert Harley was right in stating the importance of not underestimating the importance of source components, I have put the bulk of my budget there, and I am admittedly well over your budget allocation (by close to a factor of four). But other than that, I have stayed within your figures. I bought a pair of used Martin Logans in excellent condition for well under your budget. I have a tube Pre (yes, it was a screaming deal) and a modest but well reviewed SS amp both of which are under your budget. My cabling is mostly DIY (Canare) and modest Audioquest.
So, the only place I have broken your budget constraints is my front end. My DAC is an Audio Logic M34 and transport is a CEC TL2. Both of these are pieces that you will find highly praised in the discussion forums. I feel that overspending here has been $ well spent.
The only item that my heart really longs for is a pair of tube MonoBlocks. Rogue M120s are a likely candidate and have been seen here at what I think you and I would agree were affordable prices. Yes, I would also like a new digital cable....but I can be patient and wait for a deal.
For my tastes in music and the listening levels that I prefer (very seldom over 85db), this system brings me a lot of pleasure, and has not broken my bank account.
There are many here who can make very good recommendations and do regularly. I don't think the point is the recommendations (though I would gladly detail my system if you wish) because everyone's taste is different. I do think that what is important is doing your own homework in line with your own tastes, absorbing the recommendations and the market values, and then making a plan of action and executing it.
In my family room upstairs I am currently enjoying a Musical Fidelity A3 CD player ($500 used), a Blue Circle CS integrated ($1149 new), and Energy C7 speakers ($ 700 used). It would suit your musical tastes very well, and is reasonably good looking stuff to boot.
My system (used prices) falls within your budget constraints and I'm pretty damn happy with it.
Personally I think that a pretty good system can be put together for that amount (2500+/-) many people have done it here and there is an abundance of threads where people talk about the "budget" systems. Sure...people talk about the high $$$ gear also, but that is just the level they are at...where else are they gonna talk about it?
I think that part of the fun of this hobby is in the creation of the sub 3k 2 channel system that brings more enjoyment than a comparably priced surround system that clutters many of todays living rooms.
Someday though...I'll limit myself to 10-15k...but that's still alot less than some cables out there.
There are plenty of reco's here for less expensive gear. All you have to do is search the archives.
Audioreview.com also has much more information on receivers and more affordable gear. The Asylum does also. They're constantly championing Home Depot speaker cable and $69 DVD players as being worth 100X the price. You simply have to learn how to navigate through the archives. It's all been asked before.
This reminds me of one of those letters in Stereophile complaining about reviewing too much expensive equipment. Maybe Car and Driver should do a write up on my 1987 Chevy Celebrity SW! Yeah baby!!!
The simple solution to this is to sell a kidney :o) I have not gone that far yet, but I do have a local audiophile friend seriously considering it.
Im pretty stoked on my rig and it certainly diddnt break the bank
Denon AVR3805 MSRP 1200 paid 850
Denon DVD2900 MSRP 1000 paid 600
Jm Lab 707S, MSRP 700 paid 450
2 Velodyne DLS4000 MSRP 1200 paid 700
then i got some crap surrounds and my amplifier is currently on the fritz, gotta take it in... thinking of that, i better call the place and see if they think they can fix it.
all in all though it was relativlky inexpencive as far as hi fi systems go and im pretty damn pleased with it.... sure do miss the amp tho
I dont! too many audiophiles here! Too many examples of that miserable condition! good advice though, and nice people.
There are plenty of solid recommendations so far. I would suggest looking through the budget systems listed on Audiogon. I have downsized and simplified to suit a small dedicated room and am extremely satisfied with what I'm hearing. My system is well within your budget and sounds great to me, especially with acoustic recordings including some jazz. If you click on my sytem be advised that the Vandersteens have been replaced with Meadowlark Kestrel Hot Rods. The Vandy's are in the closet for now as the Kestrels are great fun to listen to.
A lot of homework and some experimentation is all it takes. Good luck.
Here are a few items that I think will have you laughing all the way to the bank.Speakers $850 Bob Brines FT-1600 MKII
.Source $620 Toshiba 3960 with SC3
.Amplifier with volume knob $500 Clari T Amp
.This puts you at the $2000 mark.
I have an idea this will go well pass your average setup. I also doubt you will ever feel left out again!
Take the money you save and buy more cds.
You must not read the theads that closely, because just about every day someone is looking to put together a sub $1500 to $2000 system. I get a lot of enjoyment suggesting systems that I will place constraints on like ... you can only buy new. On more than a dozen occasions, I have recommended a NAD C320BEE integrated amp ($400 list); Music Hall CD 25 cd player ($540 list); NHT SB2 speakers ($400 list) with Signal Cable or Better Cables budget system. This would be a very satisfying system that you would be hard pressed to beat and one that you could easily get for less than the $1340 list (add $100 for the cables).
You also need to look around for closeouts ... because they are always out there. I picked up two sets of the speakers that I have used for 5 years now (they are that good) in my main and second systems ... Acoustic Research 302 (a Stereophile Class D in '95 which would make them a Class C today) ... for $250 a pair ($1200 list).
Today, Audio Advisor has some Roksan Caspian amplifiers for 1/2 price ... Buy.com has the Wharfedale Diamond 8 series for 50% off list ... Upscale Audio always has Musical Fidelity equipment discounted. To belabor the point some more ... my main system is comprised of the Musical Fidelity CDPRE 24, the Musical Fidelity A300 Power Amp, and the AR 302 speakers ... $7400 worth of equipment, that I picked up NEW for $3050.
It's out there and people speak about it.
I don't feel left out. I believe it's about the music. I have a very satisfying value system from Marantz and PSB and really don't want more. I bought a Marantz PM-17 integrated to use as a pre-amp, two used SM-17s bi-amped for 200 w/c, a demo Marantz Sa12S1 SACD player, Kimber Heros, Kimber 8PRs, and Psb Stratus Bronzes. I have a surround system with Marantz Sr-7000 and used Stratus Bronzes and Stratus Minis and a used Stratus C5i. PSB makes great value speakers. John Dean
I would suggest that the most bang for your used dollar would be a Parasound CDP-1000 (less than 200), a Parasound PHP(??)for less than 250 as a preamp( I forget the model number..maybe PHP850?)..a used Creek integrated (upgradeable due to having pre-outs), and then some used Mission speakers...
A used McCormack DNA-0.5...about $550
A used McCormack TLC.......about $400
A pair of used Vandy 3As...about $1300 (2As <$900)
A used Sony DVP-9000ES.....about $500 (Theta Miles $900)
--Magnepan 1.6 qr or MG12,used
--one generation old Adcom 200 watt amp,not the last word in finesse but strong as an ox,used
--Scott Nixon dac
--Circuit City loss leader disk player with a digital out
--Marantx ST-17 tuner,used
--Radio Shack turnstile antenna,chimney mount kit,grounding kit,and coax cable
-16g heater cord for speaker wire.
Never confuse appearance of wealth with net worth. Many who own these high end systems don't have their financial lives in order. High end audio components are like cars, only teh components you have to post pictures to show off. But just because you own it, doesn't mean you can afford it. Audiogon is built (at lease partly) on compairson and envy. It drives (pardon the pun) the industry, like many other consumer products that don't wear out but become "obsolete" due to design changes. At times, I feel EXACTLY like you do, only I typically want to spend about 1k for a piece of equipment, not $500. So, envy can find its place anywhere on the ladder.
The other side is, websites like this draw fanatics, people who spend disproportionately on audio. So, you're going to see valuations on sytems skewed somewhat. All you need to see a dose of "average" is go back on ebay and do a search for stereo speakers. Nah. Too gutter. Thank goodness for sites like this, where passions for a hobby can run free and we can enjoy each others' insanity!
Bide your time and build a good system over time.
I've been in this hobby for over twenty years, as have many others who have systems to drool over. Rare is the man who can drop kilobucks on a system all at one time. 99% of us are not him. That's why places with 1 million surrounding area can oly support about two, at most three good audio stores.
It's taken me forever to get a truly musically satisfying system. But I have other prioreties; annually, stereo consumes about 1% of my household budget.
Put a couple hundred bucks into the system every year, and before you know it, you'll have a terrific setup. The fun is in the journey, as they say...
Look up old "Budget Components of the Year" articles/pages on the web. For instance, in my office I have Rotel's smaller integrated amp along with Magnepan MMG speakers. Both won some "bang for the buck" award a few years ago, and the MMG typically make it onto the short list for fabulous econo-speakers.
I used to mock people with riding lawn mowers. I had about 1/3 acre, and pushed the manual 5hp mower up sizable hill. I had a tad bit of envy of those fat sweats riding over their lawn. Not me! I'd rather die than be like that...until this year, when we had saved enough to buy the acre lot. I ride lawnmower now. I guess if we work at it enough, we can all become fat sweats.
By the way, centainly no blue blooded Agoner can be really satisfied with their system (they lie if they say they are). Or, if they aren't lying, they're deluded, and will wake up in the morning realizing they need a new....something, anything to improve the sound...
My latest unhappiness; switched several years ago to planar spekaers due to their perceived superiorety. Now, I miss the good 'ol box sound. So, I'm doing the indulgent thing and buying a pair of Triangle Zerius 202 speakers (another candidate for your budget system). Wny? No good reason. Just want to have both types of sound available. That, I submit is athentic silliness, which is what will no doubt happen to you in twenty years, so stop while you can and get yourself a Koss radio!
Guess y'ar'nt feeling so left out anymore, eh? I'm actually feeling all warm and fuzzy all over!! Oooohh, yeahhhh!
I do, especially when I read the U.S. audio mag's like Stereophile where "A" preamps range from a $4,300 SimAudio to a $39,000 Boulder. Okay, I left out the $1,000 Plecette passive. That's not a true pre anyhow, (dodging flames).
I have found plenty of great bargains at audio chat sites where advertising dollars don't dictate what is "good".
What struck me when I started in audio was people arguing about $15,000 Classe vs. Krell amps while here I was looking at a $1,500 integrated. It's like, no matter how much you spend you never find peace of mind. You spend 10DX the money and still don't know if you've got something good or good enough. Shouldn't $15,000 buy you peace of mind? I guess not.
This is the place to put together a system,everyone here is serious about audio and you can find many deals on things right here. Do your research,but you'll never be satisfied.I am always looking to better my system. It's aways unfinished business. Have fun!!!!
jolida 102 el84 int amp with mods..575...omega speakers...say 900...sony dvp-s7000 for transport....150...used audio note dac 1 for 500
would sound very nice once the speakers are broken in for a total of...2100 plus some moderate priced wires...would sound great
I've always promoted "bang for the buck" items, and I think that they can produce a very enjoyable system, when correctly matched.
I never had the money to play in the ultra high end priced products, so I have had to be very studious in choosing things that I could afford, and also was quite enterprising in doing mods and experiments that could bring the performance of my mid-priced items up a little bit higher on the scale.
You can get a very good result from reasonably priced products. Maybe not the "ultimate", but easily listenable, and musically enjoyable.
Proac Tabulette 2000 or Epos 14 $650-750
NHT Sub two or any nice sub $ 500-600
Rega Planet 2000 $ 600.00
Audio Research Ca50 intergrated or CJ 50 $ 1,200
Tubes are the way to go!
Thorens 125 with V15 $450
Musical Fidelity v3 Headphone amp $ 350.00
Senheizzer HD 600 with cardas $300.00
Kimber Hero or Monster m1000i cables 500.00
Monster OMC speaker cable $ 100.00
Upgrades to this system:
Linn LP12 $750-1600
Audio Research CD2 $1500.00 or Sony ES 777?
PS for an even cheaper system you can go vintage..
Luxman 1120 receiver $ 250.00
a/d/s 710's or 810's $250-450
an h/k cd player $ 100.00 with dual burr brown d/a converters. Some of these units had problems but many worked fine and sound unbeatable for the money.
PS save up for the tube monoblocks they sound awesome!
One of the nice things of this hobby (and wines also) is that the entry ticket is not as high as some other options out there. I do think that the price reference you gave us is good enough to start a very competent sound system and enjoy the music.
Options from Mission, Paradigm, Jolida, Naim, Rotel are just a few that just fit there and will give you many hours of enjoyment, and that without considering lots of people that is selling-buying-selling and leave there great oportunities to be explored.
One last world, try to not be "that in", place music at the first priority and you will be saving lots of cash.
Probably 90% of the global adult population could only dream of having 10% of your budget available for something as frivolous as a stereo. No need to feel left out.
Good luck, I think with work you will be able to put together a killer system. My thoughts on a maximum bang for the buck system usually start out with a NAD integrated in the middle.
Many of us purchase equipment that is, strictly speaking, beyond our means. But if you pay a fair used price for a piece that is likely to hold it's value, your ultimate cost may be quite low. For example, I paid $1800 for my ($3000 retail) Cary SLI-80 used several years ago, and could probably still get $1600 for it. I did spend $100 on EL34 output tubes, just for fun. On the other hand I paid $2700 for used Silverline Sonatina II speakers ($4500 new retail), which I love, but now could probably get only $1800. But since I feel these are "long term keepers", my real expense IS the $2700! The Cary will probably stay as my primary all-tube source for a long time unless I go SET. But my friends know I've said that kind of thing before....
So it does depend on how you look at it: is your cost the money you spend, or, is it the combination of the depreciation hit you take while owning it, plus opportunity cost of capital, plus any transaction risk.
Digital depreciates much faster due to technology improvements. $10,000 for a DAC that will be worth $500 in three years? Ouch!
Thanks to everyone for the recommendations and reactions. Every field of interest has participants that are willing to invest heavily in the quest for the best. Still and all, the inital investment in even a middle fi system can be daunting to non-hifi types. I already have a fine system (Oskar Heil Aulos speakers, KEF drivers in a custom made subwoofer, custom made 12au7 based pre-amp, G.A.S. Son of Ampzilla power amp, H/K FL 8400 C.D. player with a Scott Nixon DAC, Rat Shack interconnects, Monster Cable speaker cable, Kef 104abs for out of phase signal rear speakers). My first system costs $450 in 1971 (Pioneer 626 receiver, Dual turntable, Electro-Voice speakers). Changing technology, income and taste have brought about system changes for the past 34 years. It is safe assumption that this will continue. It is also safe to assume I will never have Krell mono blocks.
Thanks to everyone for the recommendations and reactions. Every field of interest has participants that are willing to invest heavily in the quest for the best. Still and all, the inital investment in even a middle fi system can be daunting to non-hifi types. I already have a fine system (Oskar Heil Aulos speakers, KEF drivers in a custom made subwoofer, custom made 12au7 based pre-amp, G.A.S. Son of Ampzilla power amp, H/K FL 8400 C.D. player with a Scott Nixon DAC, Rat Shack interconnects, Monster Cable speaker cable, Kef 104abs for out of phase signal rear speakers). My first system costs $450 in 1971 (Pioneer 626 receiver, Dual turntable, Electro-Voice speakers). Changing technology, income and taste have brought about system changes for the past 34 years. It is a safe assumption that this will continue. It is also safe to assume I will never have Krell mono blocks.