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You might try a combined unit like the Linn Classik if you budget is really tight. If you can spend a little more, you could get something like the Musical Fidelity A3 or even A300 integrated amp and a good used CD-player (I've seen the Arcam Alpha 9 used very cheap or a Rega Planet or Planet 2000). However there are many options in this price range. The first thing you will need to figure out is budget.
Suggest you skip a separate pre-amp and amp. Get an NAD receiver and use the rest of your budget for the best cd player you can afford. The Rega planet would be a good place to start auditioning. I am using an NAD receiver to drive B&W 602's in a 2nd system with a good cd front end and it sounds very good.
I would also go with an integrated amp on your budget. Much more bang for your buck. Good ones are made by NAD (C320, C340, etc.), Cambridge Audio (A3i or A500), and Rotel(970 or 971, etc.). These companies also make decent CD players. The Cambridge D500 or D500SE would be my first choice; or the older CD4SE and CD6 used.
Every beginning requires a bunch of experiments. Lower-end equipment might suck your budget more than old higher-end.
In our 21st digital Century surfing a used market on old CD-players in $750 range like Meridian 588, CAL Ikon, Micromega will always give you a possibility to sell these items with minimal loss in case of upgrade. Just make sure they're in mint condition when completing your transactions.
There are a ton of good amps and preamps out there, but in my opinion AudioSource is one of the best brands you can buy when first starting -- really solid performance from affordable components.
Sony's less expensive CD players are also good buys. Should be better than the Fisher player you're using now ...
NAD C-370 baby!!!, I got one around 2 weeks ago and i love it alot. And try a NAD c521 cdp a greeat combo i plan to get that cdp in the near future. its driving a pair of JBL ND310's very nicely and the bass is great on my dual tens in each tower. Great amp, Great company hIGHLY RECCOMEND!
If you want a single box receiver, one of the few decently priced receivers still made for quality audio and not for Home Theater is the NAD C740 which combines the C340 integrated amp with the C440 FM/AM Tuner. The C740 lists new for $499. For decent used receivers, look for NAD, Onkyo Integra (TX65 or TX870), or a Rotel (RX950 or RX975).
The Linn Classik suggestion is very good. I've owned one and it was very decent. Did everything well and takes up so little room. Don't be put off by the 37wpc rating as it is very deceptive. If you can't punch that out, go for the NAD L-40. I use one for a travel system and it is musical and very good for what it is. A reconditioned unit $360.
The British have always had a formula for investment of your dollars and it applies to you right now.
You can make a pair of decent but cheap speakers sound very respectable with a solid front end, however you cannot correct any mistakes of the source with amplification and speakers afterward. Best of luck.
Not to be disagreeable, but I think the formula that Celtic66 gave you will not produce verey good results in a budget system. While it is true that nothing the source does not prduce can be reproduced by the speakers, the speakers are the musical instrument that must move air. They should I believe represent the single biggest expense. My fomula (until you get very high end) would be:
of course with a unit like the Linn Classik you would still be spending more on the unit (source + amplification) than on speakers. One of the great advantages to this path is that you can upgrade to match your speakers more progressively and with less of a one time investment than buying better speakers which are big, heavy and expensive.