* budget $3k max; be nice to hit below that, say $1.5k
QUESTION: My question is about how to narrow down choices.
And I heard "choose speakers first" about 1000x. (I take it that you dispute that wisdom.)
Absolutely. Keep in mind, what you hear about 1000x is all BS. Here’s how you can tell. Every time someone says that you ask them, "And how many complete systems have you personally put together and set up and burned in using this approach?" And the answer, if they are honest, will be, "Zero."
If they are honest. Which they will not be. Just watch as they bob and weave and dodge that one like Ali in his prime.
In stark contrast to that, you are in a price range where I have actually done that for people three times now. Three complete systems. Three very happy customers. (I’m not a pro. I’m not in the business. I am too good for that.)
What you do if you are smart is something completely different. First you start with your requirements, which you have stated to be 2 channel stereo for music, and $1500 to $3000 total cost all-in. You haven’t said if that has to be CD or LP, so we will just call it Source for now.
Next you make a list of all the required components. They are:Source, Speakers, Amp, Wire- Interconnect, Power cord, Speaker Cable- and Tweaks (effectively limited to BDR Cones at this budget level)
Now the next step is conceptually the hardest, and that is to realize the speakers are NOT the most important, nor is the amp, nor anything else. Everything matters and therefore everything must be attended to and balanced. You can spend everything on speakers and hook them up to your cell phone and see how it sounds if you don’t believe me.
For budgeting purposes and at your $1500 to $3k level we are gonna call that 4 items and as they are all equally important that means you will be looking at $375 to $750 each.
Now I want you to stop for a minute and consider the power of this approach, in order to understand just how superior it is to everything else you will hear.
At $375 to $750 you just ruled out separates. Not only because that means splitting that already tiny amount into pre-amp and amp, but because it also means adding an interconnect and power cord, something you simply cannot afford to do. Its just nuts and you can see that now I’m sure.
Also there’s a bazillion speaker cables and interconnects but with only $375 to $750 for all of them you just ruled out every single one that is more than about $100. You still need them, you do NOT want to be using the freebie rubber crap, but you now have a realistic number on what you can afford to do. Which you did not have before. Which you never will have with everyone else’s method.
For $375 to $750 on the other hand you can find some pretty decent speakers, and a totally decent integrated. Which combined with the right wire and sitting on BDR Cones will sound a whole lot better than you ever heard from anyone’s system not costing three to four times as much. Because you did it right, and built a whole system. Nobody with freebie wire will ever touch you.
I’ll make it even easier for you. BDR Cones under everything, at $20 ea that’s 12 for $240. Subtract that from your $750 wire budget leaves $500 and so you go and buy the best Synergistic Research interconnect, speaker cable, and power cord you can find for under $200 each. And you are done with that.
Now all you need is Source, integrated amp, and speakers.
At this point you need to decide do you want CD or LP? LP is better for music but my opinion doesn’t mean squat its your system. What does matter though is if you want LP then you need a phono stage. Which can be built into the table or into the integrated. You just have to know which.
So, do you want CD or LP?