It would be quite helpful if you mentioned the type of music you listen to, how big your room is, and what type of sound you hope to acheive. Without that information, there are too many possibilities to offer.
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Since my local audio buddies, Seth and Phil, have chimed in, I will add my two cents. Phil has a VERY good system that easily meets your budget.
His system is: Plinius 8200 MkII integrated, Sony 999(?) CD player, Jean-Marie Reynaud speakers, Audience Au24 interconnect and JM-Reynaud speaker cables.
At your budget, you could (upgrade?) some componants. There are some JM-Reynaud Offrandes listed...depending on room size; maybe the Plinius 9200 integrated.
S7horton is right, but this has been my recipe:
$1500 Speakers - The Apogee Scintilla (glorious, but very hard to find)
$1500 Aleph P pre amp with remote
$2000 Acoustic Reality digital amp eAR2 (used, hard to find)
$139 Liteon 2001 DVDROM, LINUX System based wonder player (not sold in US anymore, because of the illegal things you can do with it)
0$ cables and interconnects. Throw aways and gifts
That is a 5k system. It is real.
Having to buy the eAR amp new would bring the total cost closer to 7k. That would leave 1k for wires in case you don't have generous friends.
For a smaller room, I would get the Apogee Stage, Acoustic Reality 100 watt Enigma, Phillips 963 rebuild by Acoustic Reality, and their preamp too.
That would give you a stunning system for 4k and it is relatively easy to put together.
If you have $8000 go for the Jolida stuff, integrated
receiver,jolida JD100 cd player,nice cabling maybe
audience, or AZ,speakers you still at least 4k left,
even the maestro cabling from audience are very very
good, they do at least 80% of what the Au24 does.If
you live in Chicago, you can listen to this system,
at Van L Speakerworks. This is the second times. I
heard that set up, I am very very impress.When my
Diapason arrive, I will buy the integrated Jolida,
I have the AH with upsampler already, but if If will
get good price I will sell it, And buy Jolida JD100.
I am sold to that system.Thanks
As stated previously, it will depend greatly on the type of music you listen to, and how you listen. If you tend to listen really loud, and need "in-your-face" slamming dynamics, you won't like my speaker recommendation, but the other components, mated with a good dynamic loudspeaker design, would make for a good rig.
Source: Sony SCD-XA777ES SACD/CD player ($3,000 new, $1,600 used). Stereophile recommended class A+, awesome sound and build quality, great for redbook CD's, even better with SACD.
Pre-amp: PS Audio PCA-2 ($2,000 new, $1,200 used). Fairly new product, but with an excellent pedigree, considering the reputation of Paul McGowan and PS Audio.
Amp: PS Audio HCA-2 ($1,700 new, $1,000 used). Stereophile recommended class A, 150 W/pc digital amp with an over-engineered power supply and stability into low impedance loads.
Speakers: Martin Logan Ascent ($5,000 new, $2,500 used). These speakers are also Stereophile recommended class A. They are recently discontinued, replaced by the Ascent i, so good deals can be had used. All the great attributes of an electrostatic design, including huge soundstage and remarkable low level detail. Very fast and transparent, but as I mentioned at the top, all planar speakers sacrifice the nth degree of dynamics, so they are not for everybody.
With some careful shopping, the above can be had for around $6,400. Try to allow your self the time to find a local seller, if possible, for the speakers to save on shipping costs, and the inevitable damage that occurs when shipping large, heavy, expensive objects. That leaves about 20% of your budget for cables, and I would suggest that you spend the money there. Used cables are probably the best bargain in high end audio gear, and you can buy and sell without losing a lot of money on the transaction. Start with any decent interconnects and speaker cables, and experiment until you find the right balance. Also, don't ignore power cables, especially on the Sony player. If you are so inclined, DIY power cords can improve performance dramatically for a fraction of the cost of most popular brands.
Whatever you end up buying, have fun putting together your system, and don't forget to save some money to buy music. It's easy to get so caught up in system "upgrades", that we forget the entire purpose of having a Hi-Fi rig, which is to enrich our lives with music.
First of all........ hello, and welcome to "Audiogon". If you have any questions concerning audio, you definitely have came to the right place. You will definitely will be endowed with a lot of different options for you to choose from.
Secondly...... before you can settle upon something definite, you will need to disclose your room size, acoustics and your musical tastes in the future so that someone who has similar tastes to yours can give you some more insight as to what type of equipment you need to buy in order to make the most of your room and acoustics, as well as do justice to your music.
So then, in saying that, I'm going to come up with a recipe of my own
For an $8K "Audio Only" system for 2003, here is what I would go for:
Speaker System: Vandersteen 2Ce -- $1,000.00 (used).
Power Amplifier: McCormack Power-Drive DNA-0.5 (Solid-State) -- $800.00 (used).
Power Amplifier: conrad-johnson Premier 11A (Tube) -- $2,000.00 (used).
Preamplifier: McCormack TLC-1 Passive Line Stage (Solid-State) -- $700.00 (used).
Preamplifier: conrad-johnson Premier 17LS (Tube) -- $2,500.00 (used).
Compact Disc Player: Sony SCD-777ES + Musical Fidelity A3 D/A Converter -- $1,500.00 + 1,000.00 (used).
Cables: MITerminator 2 (Solid-State) or DH Labs (Tube) -- $500.00-to-$1,000.00 (all the way through) (used).
I have put together two systems for you just in case your equipment/musical biases run in either camp. If you listen to pop, rock, funk or r&b/hip-hop, then I have put together a solid-state system because if you listen to these styles of music, you're going to want the punch and impact that only a solid-state system can provide. But now, if you listen to jazz, classical, or if you're into accurate renderation of male and female vocals, then you're going to want the intimacy and immediacy that only a tube system can offer. In either case, the playback system remains the same, as I am convinced that right now, outside of going for cheaper, but needlessly complicated multi-channel, but slightly inferior sounding newer digital playback system, I have put together what I feel is still the gold standard in high resolution digital playback today. You can use the Sony SCD-777ES alone to playback SACDs. I have also included a separate DAC into the system as well so that you can use the Sony SCD-777ES as a transport, and use the DAC to playback and get the most out of your existing CD collection. I have also given you some references for you to go by as far as cables are concerned. But if there are others that other posters want you to become aware of, I am sure they'll let you know what they are. One of the first upgrades I would make as soon as my budget recovers is I would invest in a good power filtration system (Monster Power, Eqi=Tech, Panamax, etc......). Another (and more simpler way) to build this system (if the the idea of separates don't exactly suit you) is that I would keep the speakers above, but then I would go for:
Integrated Amplifier: Classe CAP-151 -- $1,200.00-to-$1,500.00 (used).
Integrated Amplifier: Balanced Audio Technology BK-300X -- $2,200.00 (used).
Compact Disc Player: Meridian 508.24 + Sony DVP-S9000ES (for Two Channel SACD Playback Only) -- $1,500.00 + $600.00 (used).
And I would stand pat with the cable selections I that I have mentioned above.
So given the various components I have mentioned above, then the system pricing would go as follows:
The Vandersteen/MITerminator/McCormack/Sony + Musical Fidelity System would cost only $5,000.00 + Cables,
The Vandersteen/DH Labs/conrad-johnson/Sony + Musical Fidelity System would cost only $8,000.00 + Cables.
On the other hand, if you decide to go with integrateds as opposed to separates, then you may get off a little cheaper in the long run:
Vandersteen/Classe/Meridian + Sony System would be $4,600.00 + Cables,
Vandersteen/BAT/Meridian + Sony System would be $5,100.00 + Cables.
Hopefully, that should be enough to go on for now.
Good Luck, Welcome to Audiogon, and Let Us Know What You End Up With.
Dynaudio Special 25 (3500), Sony SCD-1 (2500) , Pathos Classic One Integrated (1700 used) Nordost Blue Heaven Rev. ll (300). You can find a scd-1 for 2200 and then you can get a Dynaudio Masterstand to go with the speakers. The sound will be accurate and very musical, listening to full orchestra classical music (Bruckner, Mahler, etc) you can get the sound of the different string instruments and the whole orchestra sounds very detailed and an image that floats in front of you. This is my system and it`s just an example of what you could do with that kind of money. Good luck.
$1400 McCormack DNA 0.5 Revision A amplifier.
$2000 Sony SCD-1 SACD/CD player.
$2000 Pass Labs X 2.5 pre-amp.
$2200 Vandersteen 3A signatures.
$ 600 Pure Note or Music Timbre 2 pair XLR 1m ic's.
$ 500 Audience Au24 or Audio Tekne 2m speaker cables.
The only thing missing would be dedicated AC lines and proper power conditioning.
The above components with the right room, speaker placement, and music should provide you near enough to an almost flawless musical presentation.
Great integrated amps are available on the used market for under $2,000. Various models from Musical Fidelity, Plinius, YBA, Classe, Conrad Johnson and Manley are all readily available. If you stretch your budget to $2,500 you might be able to find an original model Rowland Concentra.
The choice for loudspeakers really depends on your listening preferences and your room. If you have the space and aren't into "power" music, than the Quad 63s are outstanding. They will also mate very well with any of the above integrated amps. They're readily available for under $2,000. The Quads will provide state of the art midrange and imaging with excellent tonality. If space is an issue then go with the Proac Response 2s. If you taste tend more towards loud music with lots of bass, then the NHT 3.3s are a good choice. They can be had for $1,500. The NHTs have terrific bass, excellent imaging and strong dynamics.
An Esoteric (Teac) DV50 universal player can be had used for $4,000. Alternatively, you could go the hard disk playback route. An Apple G4 laptop ($1,100), an Apogee Mini-DAC w/ USB and an external firewire 180 Gb hard drive ($300) would make an excellent sounding digital playback system when using Apple's iTunes software. Add and iPod ($300) and you'll have portability. The Esoteric would provide the better sound quality, but the Apple hard disk system, while still excellent sounding, provides far greater listening flexibility.
Used cables are an excellent bargain. I prefer neutral type (Cardas, Discovery, etc.). At this system price level I wouldn't recommend spending more than $500 on all cables.
I would suggest a few integrated amplifiers: Gryphon Tabu Century;Rowland Concentra;YBA Passion Integre;Yakov Aronov(tube).Which one you will like most-I have no idea.This will cost you from $2000 to $3000. For the speakers,digital players and cables there are too many choices.You could try and find CEC belt drive player($500-$700) and Purist Audio original Aqueous or Maximus cables(say,$300-$600 for interconnects and speaker cables).Spend the rest on speakers.Couple of $100 good power cords wouldn't hurt.
Wadia 850 CD Player for about $2500 PROAC D15 Speaker for about $1700 - $2200. Audio Research VT100 MKIII for about $2700 you could also do the VT100MKII for about $2200 Don't get the VT100MKI. Nordost Blue Heaven Interconnect for about $250. Hospital grade outlets with independent lines for about $50 if you do it yourself. Isolation cones for CD player and Amp for about $300. This system will sound awesome. You don't have to use a preamp and you can have Steve Huntley at Great Northern Sound do a upgrade on the cd player later if you want. Trust me get the isolation cones for the player and the amp you will be amazed at the bottom end difference. Proac's are senstive to room placement so if mama doesn't want you putting your stuff in the middle of the room pick something else.