Best bang-for-buck purchase you have made?

For me, it was buying a pair of used Magnepan MG-12 speakers for $550.00 from a dealer in Oregon. I had heard the 1.6 before, but not the smaller 12's. These speakers have TOTALLY changed the way I listen to music - I may eventually upgrade to larger Maggies, but I think I will always keep the 12's around.

What about the rest of you?
As those that know me can testify, I have a way of finding "killer deals" on a regular basis. With that in mind, the one that really stands out to me was when i bought my first pair of Ohm F's. When Ohm Acoustics stopped production of the F's, they were retailing at appr $5K a pair. While my F's originally set me back $200 ( "free" foam rot included ), i had to sink more money into them just to get them running. Just as Listentothemusic stated with his experience with Maggies, these speakers changed my thoughts and listening habits. I liked them so much after having them repaired and finding suitable components to drive them with, i ended up driving to Boston ( from Chicago ) to buy another pair just to keep as a spare.

While they are quite limited in SPL range ( 94 dB's at 8' - 10' is their limit ), are very in-efficient ( appr 82 dB's ) and a tough load ( 1.5 - 3 ohms across the band, even at low frequencies, where you already need GOBS of current ), i still love them. Even with all of these drawbacks, once you find a suitable amp to drive them, they do some things SOOO "right" that i can't see ever selling them. One full range Walsh* driver with no crossover operating from well below 20 Hz to 15+ KHz radiating in a 360 degree omni-directional pattern is something to experience when properly set up. As i've mentioned before, i don't know of any other speakers that can present the "all engulfing" soundstage that these speakers do when you feed them a good recording. As far as bass output goes, NO subwoofer needed. Can't say that about any other "full range" as far as i know either. Sean

* Don't be "fooled" by other speakers in the Ohm product line claiming to use Walsh drivers. The only "true" Walsh's were the Ohm A, Ohm F and the Ohm G. The rest of them, primarily marketed under the name of "The Walsh Series", make use of conventional drivers in non-conventionally mounted designs.
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5 years ago, I paid a 5$ door charge to see a KISS cover band...I now know what its like to be a true die hard fan of something:)
Van Alstine amp and biro L/1 speakers. Best bang for any of the bucks I have spent. It was about $2500 total. :-)
I too started off with a pair of small Maggies. I've been hooked on Maggies ever since. When I upgraded to the 1.6's, I actually ended up making a couple hundred bucks selling the little speakers. How often does THAT happen?
Best bang-for-the-buck, that's easy. I paid $1100 for a pair of Sony SS M9 speakers. I have been saving for a pair of Wilson Watt/Puppies or a pair of Soundlabs. I had twice that money saved but after hearing the Sony's I'm not sure I need them anymore. These speakers sound so much better than I thought they would. I had the smaller SS M7a and I liked them, but the difference is not subtle. I'm glad more people don't know about these. If they did I would not have been able to get such a great deal.
The only thing I don't like about them is the finish so it's hard to complain! Sound is more important than cosmetics!
I also bought an SCD 777es from a guy whose store was out of business. I paid about 1/3 of the asking price.
I still think a pair of Purist Dominus IC would rank up there regardless of the price because they sound so amazingly good!!!
Without a doubt, for me it has to be having a McCormack DNA-0.5 amp upgraded by Steve McCormack (SMc Audio) to their Revision A-Gold. This amp will easily compete with amps in the the $5000.-$10,000. range, and total cost (assumming new purchase of a 0.5) was $3100.-3200.

The other item that really makes my system "sing" is NOS 6922 Sovtek tubes (w/Hal-O tube dampers) in my Line 2SE pre-amp-- and at $25. ea., they're inexpensive! Cheers. Craig
It is a toss-up, either:

Nueance platform to use under my SACD player or,

Pure Note Sigma power cords.

Denon 103D.......had one I bought in Japan in 1984,
sold it, and bought two new ones 18 years later.
Best cartridge under $1000, and better than some
more expensive than that.
Polk SDA SRS speakers!

$650 paid for a near mint pair
a few years ago, right after selling a $30,000 retail
speaker (wont mention brand) and no they were not
as good, but I was more suprised at how little
I was actually giving up!
Carver Z modular amps. In my case they are two of the A220s at about $350, and the excellent A-760x which I bought for less than $700.
I never new of polk having a speaker costing thirty thousand dollars. I own a couple different set of polk speakers in the early to late seventies. all very good. Must have missed this pair. Please fill me in.
By default, it would have to be my going-on-20-years-old Technics SL-1200 turntable. I special ordered it through Circuit City for $290 when I left college (the first time :-) in the early-mid 80's, after having used the desk-mounted Technics TT's at the school radion station - long before I ever seriously entertained thoughts of one day building a high end system for myself. At the time, in my blissful ignorance, I thought it must be about the best TT one could get, but even then I thought it was a bargain for what you got, despite my lack of funds (they're around twice that much now, I think). Many thousands of records, and many thousands of dollars spent on much higher-zoot equipment later, I still do not *hear* a reason why I should need to replace it (though I have tweaked it up a bit), and it's never not worked for even a minute of that time. It's the only surviving piece of gear I still own from my first self-assembled system (based on NAD separates). No audiophile cache, and hardly the ultimate I'm sure, but that's what I call enduring value.

It was not a Polk for $30k, but a previous speaker
I owned & sold. I got the Polks right after I sold
other speakers, and was suprised!
Great bang (and better) for the buck.
Z, there's a story i'd like to share that is quite complimentary to Technics DD tables, but i might lose what little credibility i have with "audiophiles" if i did. I'm glad that you have enough faith in your choice and ears to mention such a product. I'd say something like this to Francisco, but he's already on the warpath defending his "baby" and doesn't need any more ammo to throw back at those that fling darts at these products : ) Sean
Sean, email me...I promise not to reveal anything to Francisco. :-)

BTW, I mention the product only because it's the truth. I have no doubt that, were I looking for my first TT today, having wider knowledge about what's available (and if I had never DJ'ed at that college station), I probably wouldn't ever think to even consider the 1200. I bought it out of ignorance to some degree, and in a way I keep it out of ignorance too: I've heard a few 'high end' TT's in passing, but have never really auditioned one under familiar conditions. Even if I wanted to shop around, I don't know where I'd go or what I'd do - none of the dealers near me seem to stress analog. I had to buy my last cartridge sound-unheard through the mail; I assume I'd probably be facing a similar situation for an audiophile-approved TT, and how much would that tell me on a comparitive basis about anything other than that TT vs. my present one - after I'd already bought it? A TT is one component I'd want to get brand-new, but it's also one of the few that it seems you can't comparatively audition at most dealers. So since I'm not unhappy, here I stay...
Well with me it was two Spectral 200 Class A amps in the eighties for 2000 Swissfrancs each, which would be about 3000 bucks at today's rate of exchange. I still use them to this day to drive the Stax stators in my setup and without MIT wires to boot!
SET EL84 amp for $26 fully tubed with GE tubes. One of best sounding amp I have heard ( Jadis SE-300b is more romantic but not in terms of dynamic and the price tag.) Compared with Sun Audio SV3 on JBL horn system and it blewed the Sun Audio away in terms of clarity and bass response. This little guy with no feed back really brings the music out of the speakers. For my second setup, it matched perfectly with Jensen TF-3 and Dynaco PAS-3 modified and DIY silver interconnects and speaker cables.
Novus plastic cleaner for about $4.00 and a microfiber polishing cloth from Wal-Mart for $2.00. Use on CD's.
Denon DL103R. An outstanding cartridge for around $200. Not available in the US, but if you are very good at researching sources, you can get them.

The other great bang-for-buck item I think is Lowther speakers. If you can DIY a cabinet, they will give unbelieveable sound for under a grand. The clarity and coherence of Lowthers is incredible.
2 that I can recall.

Paradigm 3se mk III mini speakers- I bought them back in the mid 80s for ~$250 new. Great speakers for the price, I sold them quite a long time ago. I can still recall the great performance for the price.

Recent- Classe DR6 preamp bought here on the 'gon for $950. A near vintage piece with a wonderful phono stage. I outgrew my B&K Pro10MC and did not want a outboard phono preamp to make my system more complex than it is. It was an ideal solution.
16ft. pair of Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables for $955 new. It might not sound cheap, but what you get for the money is a steal.
Some of the best bang for the buck purchases I made I actually paid full price for. Nixon DAC, Furutech power distributors, Eichmann, Bogdan, Wolff cables and Carolina speakers to name a few.
I have two both are analog. I bought a Teac TN400 Turntable with Stay UA7 arm in 1976. It's direct drive. It floats the platter on a magnetic field and its pretty impervious to shock when on a stable platform. It has capacitive controls with a 7 lb. machined platter. I paid less than $300.00 bucks for the whole thing. I have been using this turntable every since then through countless moves. It sounds better than most and never fails to work.

My second item is a used Linn LP12. I bought it with an Itok with a Supex 900 and Basik arm. for $400.00 bucks back in the eighties. I had it modded to the Valhalla shortly thereafter. And yes the Supex still works fine and so does the table. (I didn't use the Supex for almost ten years).
picked up a pair of alon II's on audigon that had a little bit if repair done to the rear of the dipole baffle for $500.

the owner would have taken less but i did not have the heart to offer less.cant tell unless you look for it from the back.

they are incredible speakers - sounds like maggies but with bass & dynamics. much better (more transperent) than the vandersteen 2's.

My Wharfedale Diamond 8.1's. Bought a pair based on reviews for $130. Was blown away. Bought 8.3's used for 150-Diamond center new for $119(best budget center out there) These speakers sound great and are a total bargain even at msrp
1. Magnepan speakers -- I'm a convert for life
2. Nordost cables (Red Dawn and Blue Heaven)-- Made my other cables sound defective and so improved the sound that I still have trouble believing how good they are.
Pair of brand-new, still sealed in the box JMLabs Mezzo Utopias for $3,000. Not hot, either (called JMLabs and confirmed serial numbers, etc. from original bill of sale).

Telefunken 12AX7's $100 for my Encore preamp 0h my God what a incredible improvement. Also EVS attenuaters will put many much much more expensive preamps too shame.
Not too long ago, a 'friend' of mine sold me his Adcom GFP-750 for the remarkable price of $200. He was being kind, of course, and he sooo much wanted me to pitch the old, crappy, Yamaha preamp that I had at the time. In retrospect, it was probably more important to him than it was to me.

I was entirely unprepared for the demo. I just knew that there was NO WAY that a preamp would make more than a minor improvement in the sound of my modest stereo. Naturally, I couldn't have been more wrong - and I still have that preamp.
For me, this has to be the Spica TC-50 speakers which were $550 new back in the late '80s. At least when used with a sub (and replacing its Audax tweeters with the same), I seem to find it impossible to "upgrade" these speakers- when I listen to other speakers, it just make me appreciate them more.
pipedream 21 s recently right here on AG. Its the Rock n Roll speaker system from hell. Just what the Dr ordered!
Tyler Reference Monitors, stands, sub, external cross overs & cables from another Agon member for $1200.00. The absolute best money I have put into my system yet. Even at full retail these are worth every penny.
<$1500 for all Apogee speakers except the Diva. Most who have bought an Apogee, have never looked at buying anything else.
Magnepan, Magneplanar 1.6qr speakers. Even at their list price they are an incredible bargain for such great sound! I can't tell you what I paid for my new pair...but it was the best deal on earth in my book!
Paid $500 for an Arcam FMJ CD23 and sold it for $1275....then turned around and bought my Gryphon Linestage for $1200...both are great purchases but the dual mono preamp was a far better benefit for my system than the Arcam.
Just the list here :

1. Forte 4a amp, $450

2. Apogee Duetta Signature speakers, $900

3. Paradigm Studio 20 speakers, $250

4. Paradigm Studio 20 Active speakers, $695

5. Velodyne FSX-12 sub, $300.

6. Citation 7.0 surround pre-amp using the analog pass thrus, $300.

7. Citation 7.1, 4 channel amp, $695

8. Reference Line Premminance 1a passive line stage, $395

9. Reference Line Silver Signature amp with outboard high current power supplies, $2500 (the best amp I've heard...period!)

Scott 299 Integrated, $30 + $180 in parts from VTV to get it running .
Curiously, never found a really good deal in a good digital source (closest Marantz CD 63SE, California Audio DAC). I was actually surprised by the quality of my G5 Mac when streamed to my system.
3-way tie, I think:
1) Dared SL1200A preamp (w/Mullard CV4024s & a Bendix 6106 rectifier), replaced a Sonic Frontiers SFL-1
2) KAB/Technics SL1200MK2 turntable that absolutely wiped the floor with my Michell TechnoDec/Audionote combo
3) $50 Chinese 6SN7-based USB DAC (listening to Pandora Radio with it right now, wonderful w/a pair of Raytheons!)
Eastern Electric Minimax Preamp
Gallo Nucleus Speakers
Mapleshade Speaker Jumpers
Philips MFB 545 active speakers for 1200 usd, made in the early eighties. 3 ways speakers, three in-built amplifiers (75 watts, 50 watts, 25 watts) with 12 inch woofers. Lovely full bodied sound of the seventies, with a good dose of dynamism and speed. Actually, to hear a violin concerto on these speakers are revealing: there is an orchestra behind the violinist. No more hassle with speaker-amp-speaker cable-power cable matching. It works well with the supplied Chinese pcs (Although I have recently bought VH audio flavour 4 pcs.)There are bass and treble and volume controls, so I could adjust the sound to the quality of recordings (typically, when I play - very rarely - pop or rock music, I need to reduce bass level).
Home-made corner bass traps. Cost all of $40 for materials for two of them plus about 20mins to put them together. They do an excellent job cleaning up the bass frequencies. This "product" has given me by far the best improvement per dollar spent I have ever had.

In terms of buying something that someone else made, I would say that my Denon DL103R cart is pretty much the cat's pajamas.
Slimdevices Squeezebox (paired with a Benchmark DAC-1). Has TOTALLY revolutionized my listening. Entire music collection now ripped to FLAC, plus frequent listening to Internet Radio (mainly Radioio Acoustic and Pandora). Now I have "whole house audio" in addition to my main listening room, and am listening 10X more than I ever did before!
Blue Circle USB Thingee DAC. $169 plus a 19.95 3 ft USB gold plated cable from the Shack. It runs everything off my PC in fine fashion. Installation was a no brainer, make sure to set all the levels up on the PC.

VBR files seem to sound the best. I haven't ripped anything in Apple lossless or wav yet for comparison.

I was able to get HDCD using the Windows Media Player with the CD in my puter. WMP does not play well with iTunes, so make sure you shut iTunes down first.

I should mention this is my first new audio purchase since 1978 when I was able to buy at dealer pricing.

It's the wave of the future folks ... there aren't going to be a lot of "redbook" CD stores down the road. Time to get computer literate or the iPod generation will take over.
Hmm.. It's probably a tie between my purchase of a minty pair of slightly used floor-demo Hales Revelation Two's (Sapele finish) at near dealer-cost from my local dealer when Hales went out of business, or my score of a vintage Pioneer SX-434 receiver for only $10(!) at a neighbor's garage sale last summer, original box included. That little 15 wpc gem has nary a scratch on it and all the lights work perfectly! I just love listening to the quiet FM tuner while basking in the glow of that classic blue dial! I was marvelling at how good my iPod sounds through this little receiver and the phono stage is pretty good, too.. Awesome bang-for-your-buck! And the Hales aren't bad, either ;-) -jz