Best of value-based systems

As a long-time audio enthusiast, I have watched with interest as the hobby has evolved from a budget-driven search for the best sound, to a hobby that seems increasingly driven by how much expendable income one has. No offense meant to the younger 'philes with lots of techno-money, but simply buying expensive gear isn't what the audio hobby is all about. Most of my system has been assembled from used equipment, with a strong emphasis on VALUE for the dollar. Hence, I have largely eschewed "audio jewelry". I'd be very interested in hearing from others who have built systems on the concept of most "bang for the buck". What components do you think provide the maximum quality/audio return for the dollar?
fact is: if folks didn't buy new stuff all the time, you wouldn't have a source for used gear. you aren't at the center of this hobby. you're at the back end. nearly everyone needs a car but everyone can't afford a carrera 4. so, keep driving your neon & recognize you'll never beat me in a race over indepedence pass.
So much for music taming the savage breast.
Maybe this is more what you are looking for than Slug had to offer.Amps-DNA 0.5,Jolida's,Rogue88,Preamps-Rogue 66,Adcom750, CDP-Rega,Cal,Turntable-Rega P-25,Cartridge-Grado,IC's and cables-Harmonic Tech.Speakers-Paradigm Studio's-20,60,80,100'S
I retract my thread, Sluggo - your succinct and erudite commentary has totally subdued me. Sorry for expecting useful input, but I guess your remarks illustrate my point to stunning effect. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a lot of slugs, but I doubt that pouring salt on you would produce half so pleasant a result............For the record, however, I have bought a lot of new equipment over the past 40 years, and still do. Unfortunately, prices in audio today are driven to a signficant extent by what the market will bear. Pearls before swine, I suppose........
I think sluggo has a great sense of humor.Especially in a previous post concerning "oven treating"CDs.There is the truth glaring in our faces. If nobody buys big buck gear;we are all buying used Yugo's. Everybody does this hobby their way.I dont make your money;nor do I get to spend it.I don't rag on the people below me;nor the people above me.Some would rather buy an old Chevy,and tear it down, and put it back together:we are still in the same "car club" But some humor along the way of sharing ideas seems ok to me.
I am a big proponent of buying used. You can usually get equipment that originally cost twice as much as you are paying. That is enough to push someone from a new Adcom to a used YBA. The differences are not minor. Products that would let us put together a value system: Electronics from Audio Refinement, Cambridge, Creek, Golden Tube, Jolida, Musical Fidelity, NAD, Quicksilver, Rogue, etc. Speakers from B & W, Coincident, Paradigm, PSB, Soliloquy, Vandersteen, etc. Cables from AudioQuest, Coincident, HomeGrown, Kimber, Pure Silver Sound, Silver Audio, etc. While the people who spend the most money often feel that they are superior, it is not infrequent for a budget system to beat the pants off an exotic one. It's definitely not about how much money is spent.
Sd, I would agree for me the fun comes from finding the inexpensive great sounding gear...the things legends are made of. There are alot of us out there that feel that way. We look for equipment like the Robertson 4040, Large Advent speakers, Audible Illusions L-1 preamp and the Parasound CDP 2000 Ultra Player. I also believe that there are some great values to be found in the moderate to expensive gear (Wadia and Resolution Audio to name a few). Avguy I fail to see the humor in a cheap shot...carrera vs. nenon, give us a break.
Two things: Sluggos response was much more based on sarcasm and obnoxiousness than humor. That's my opinion; but I guess everyone has a different sense of humor. Secondly: after messing around in this hobby for 20 years, I think it's fair to say that the high end is quite a bit about the "law of diminishing returns". Digital technology may (and probably has been for a while) in a phase where the advancements are so fast that so-called state of the art equipment is not that within months. I've always been a budget focused audiophile, trying to get the best sound for the least $$ and I'll post my entire system here, not just recommendations of gear. I think it sounds pretty good. For CD player, you can pick up on-line for $189 an RCA 5223P DVD player (I sold my $1000 Arcam Alpha 8SE because the RCA sounded better and posted a review at Audio Asylum-there will be lots of laughter here, but I know what I hear). Interconnects are Silver Audio Bullet 6.0's purchased used for $150. My amp is an Audiolab 8000A-now discontinued, but a classic British integrated-Artech Electronics (if they have any left) is closing them out for around $400 (1/2 price brand new in box) and if you don't need phono they have the supposedly better 8000S for about $100 more also 1/2 price, which was also very favourably reviewed a few years ago. Crank a used Cardas Golden power cord ($200 on Audiogon) on the amp and plug it into a $10 hospital grade outlet. Buy some Kimber 8TC (used about $150). My speakers are old and not available, so can't give recommendations there, but lots to choose from! So far, you're at $1200 without an equipment stand and speakers, and I can assure you, this sounds pretty good. How's this for value-bought my turntable at a "police auction" about 12 years ago-must a have been stolen or something. A Michell Gyrodek with a Sumiko MMT arm (now replaced) and a Koetsu Black Goldline (now, unfortunately replaced), all for $200! To be honest, I spent about another $500 buying a new tonearm lead and putting it into shape then (didn't have kids, house, etc. in those days), but I still think that's a pretty good deal!
Sluggo your comments are base but funny.The one thing that is certin is $ has no bearing on what it will sound like.gear is priced according to what the market will bear and because to often people think the more it costs the better it has to be.I have been told by some in the bussiness that certin gear is priced at 2/3 times what the original design price point is because they feel if this cd player list for 499 no one will think its good.Price the same player at 1499.00 and now people think its a great cd player.Buy used when ever you can. Products like Rogue Coincident Parrasound Musical Fidelity Bryston 20 year warranty transferable how can you go wrong.
Hi Sd; despite what Sluggo suggests, I've never considered HQ audio a "race"-- it's a personal quest for HQ audio to me; and I've bought both new and used. D99 and Trelja(above) have pretty good lists. I'd just add Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 pre-amp-- a near classic IMO, Adcom's 600/700 DACs (used), and yes, Vandersteen 2Ce speakers. Cheers. Craig.
Thank you, all, for your comments. I will ignore Sluggo's remarks and expand on the purpose for starting this thread. One editorial after another in the audio press, supported by annual sales figures, indicate that our hobby is not growing - infact, the contrary is happening. When I first became serious about audio in the early 1960's, there were many notable audiophile/music lovers in the business: Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, Henry Kloss, David Hafler, etc. Note that I used a combined description: audiophile AND music lover. One of the business and social objectives of early "stereo" was to make high quality MUSIC reproduction available to a large number of people. The "average person" in the 1950's and 1960's usually had less expendable income than today, so designers and manufacturers of "stereo equipment" had to make GOOD equipment to a relatively lower price point. I have a real concern that today's "higher end" audio gear is often beyond the means of many potential hobbyists. Combined with a general lowering of expectations in audio fidelity (witness the growth of MP3 and other compressed recordings methods), lots of potential audio hobbyists may never get exposed to truly fine, MUSICAL sound. I acknowledge the specific truth in Sluggo's comments - without someone buying new high-end equipment, there is no high-end USED market. However, that begs my point. High end audio prices are affected the same way as real estate when the market is saturated with a small number of people with a lot of money. The housing market in Seattle, WA, is a perfect example, where Microsoft millionaires and billionaires have driven up home prices to the point that many young adults and couples are unable to purchase a home - new or used - here. I am a regular contributor to the Audiogon forums because I want to share information with our newer members of the 'phile fraternity. I believe one way to do that is help them build systems that are VALUE-BASED - i.e., provide a high ratio of quality to cost. Some of the ways that audio hobbyists used to acquire good gear was to build it themselves, either from scratch or from kits (Heathkit, Fisher, Dynaco, etc). Tried to find any good kits lately? Hence, today's buyers must sift through a lot of information, much of it essentially useless, to help them identify good audio equipment that they can afford. If we can begin to stimulate the high-end audio industry by focusing on VALUE, rather than cosmetics or grossly over-engineered "audio eye candy", younger buyers may be encouraged to adopt the hobby. Sharing your ideas about VALUE is, contrary to Sluggo's comments, central to the hobby, not peripheral. I will close by adding some of my nominees for value-based audio products: Adcom; Rotel; Rega; VPI; Musical Fidelity; Bryston; Parasound; Paradigm; Shure and Grado (cartridges); Magnepan (particularly the 1.6R speaker); Mondial's Aragon and Acurus lines; and my personal value-favorite, Vandersteen Audio. I encourage other readers to add their thoughts.
Not much on yugo's, but i do drive a geo metro and save about $600.00 a month on gas, when i used to go out selling on the road.Sluggo, transparent cables introduced a new line of speaker cables at the cedia show. There a bargin! you can get an 8' pair for $23,500.00 enjoy!
I have a great little system that is a set of Spica TC-60's driven by a Denon 1025 receiver and a conrad-johnson SD1 CD player. Wonderful soundstaging, very musical, and easy to listen to. Worth about $800-900 on the used market. I love the fact that we can buy used gear to try out different things and find out what we like. It's a big adventure to me. I find that my tastes change as I learn and experience different characteristics of equipment. Another recent 'find' is old tube amps. I just bought an old tube amp, and I find that it does some things that more modern equipment cannot match. It has more distortion, but also a sense of harmonic texture that is unbelievable. Electric guitars have a presence that I've never heard before. I notice it uses the same family of tubes that my guitar amp has. Lastly, to beat a dead slug: It's really obnoxious how some people try to portray themselves as 'better than others' by bragging about their economic power. Why don't you go hang out at a 'new' equipment site.
Thank you to all the thoughtful members for their time in sharing opinions. Sd, I'll bet you still listen to the music, as well as your system, and what an experience that is! To be transformed by the melody, each and every one unique. A great thread idea, and I learned something from it. I'm sorry it got slightly derailed by one of the materialistic punks on the site. Charlie
Hi SD. I am new to this forum, Sluggo also ticked me off a while back. I got over it and have to admit that I find his slash and burn posts pretty funny most of the time. I am also a die hard potlicker whether it be the purchase of a car, a bottle of shampoo or stereo equipment (art is my only soft spot, though I have sold a couple of paintings to fund our current system). Fifteen years ago I was using tube gear and the best bangs then were Eico (HF81), Dynaco (Stero 70's and the Pas3x) and McIntosh (Mac 30's). Currently this equipment is a lot more expensive and considering that most of it needs a good overhaul plus the expense of quality tubes it does not represent the value that it once did (for example I picked up a pair of Mac 30's for $140.00 in 1974). I feel that I have achieved a lot of "bang" in my new system. I went with a Musical Fidelity X-A1 for the amp and find that it has the kind of midrange that I am most comfortable with plus grainless highs and a linear bass, and for not a lot of money either. I finally found a pair of the Musical Fidelity X-A50 monoblocks and will soon be able to bi-amp our little Castle Acoustic Isis speakers. I am so pleased with both the sound and the style (it's a living room system and I like being married to my wife) of the MF gear that it is going to stay around for a long time. I picked up the Castle speakers as a kind of low cost replacement for my old Harbeth BBC moniters. I like them more in the high and low end and they are pretty close in the midrange, closer than most that I have auditioned. They do sound brighter even in a well damped room which could be due to using CD's instead of vinyl as a source. I have not made up my mind yet on the speakers. Now that I have added Vibrapods, cheap power conditioning (Monster 2000) and a Harmonic Tech power cord to my Cal Ikon MKII, it sounds very musical. I like it more than the expensive Arcams that I auditioned. My favorite reasonably priced player (for the quality of sound) so far has been the Theta Miles and the CAL (with these little extras) is close enough for me to wait until the future format of CD's is decided before I replace it. By the way, before the tweaks I was not satisfied with the sound. I purchased a used Audio Refinement CD Complete that I also liked (it was a toss up between it and the CAL) but I ended up giving it to my stepson to replace a cheap changer that we gave him when he was still in highschool. The biggest bang that I have run across so far are the Homegrown Audio Super Silver interconnects at $60.00 to $70.00 a pair or less if you want to solder them up yourselves. I recently purchased a pair of used Harmonic Tech. Truthlink interconnects for older/tinny CD's and a change of pace. Something that I am also looking forward to is putting together a small tube system for the spare bedroom which will also become an office if I end up going the self employment route. I was able to listen to one of the Decware Zen amps on a pair of Klipsch Chorus's. These were the only high efficiency speakers that I had access to and we used the preamp section in my MF integrated for the front end. I thought that the amp sounded super. I just have not been able to figure out a "small" highly efficient speaker for this setup. Maybe an old pair of ADS 500's or the little Gallo Micro system? Anyway has anyone heard this little SET? That is all.
Dekay: I listened to the Isis speakers and found them very bright. they were fine when listening to classical and jazz, but as soon as I played some good old rock and roll, it became evident the highs were etched. I think even if you listen only to classical that these speakers would be very fatiguing. In other words, I don;t think it's your source, IMO.
Hi Exley. It's always good to hear a "like" opinion on a product. The funny thing about these little boxes is that they really kill on classical music, it's what they do incredibly well. The problem that we have been having is with some popular music including R&R (as you mentioned) and of course so so recordings. I am currently using Kimber 4VS cable and would like to experiment with something a little more musical when I bi-amp. Maybe (used of course) Analysis Plus or Audioquest cables. Maybe a new thread on the subject, if anyone can stand another bi-amp query about warm organic speaker cables on a budget. Who knows, maybe I'll drive by Sluggo's tag sale and hit pay dirt. I have also been auditioning the Soliloquy line and would like to audition Duntech and PSB as well. Other than price limitations I also need stand mounters due to five very industrious male house cats.
Meant Dunlavy not Duntech above. Also Coincident speakers.
Mr. Campbell- Thought-provoking thread. I'm w/you regarding bang-for-buck equipment/system. OR as another post said "try to get the best performance w/the least amount of dough". But before you think I'm toying around w/NaD-quality gear, let me say my system retails for 20k but "only 14k" out-of-hand. My $3300 VAC triode tube amp I bought used for $1700. My $1700 transport, I got brand new for $900. My $3800 speakers, I got just before the price increase, so they set me back $3500. but I did get compensated W/$600 worth of cabling that replaced by prior reference. So while I would not call my system budget or reference quality it keeps me happy. Echoing your later post, I believe value-based prOducts would attract more consumers who can only shake their heads at the prices of our gear, even if they cvan afford it. They have not become accustomed to paying this kind of prices for stereo equipment. Now there will always be those that base the value of their system on cost only. We know that reflexs nothing on the actual performance as a music producing system. But we also know that system-building is very hard- earned skill, once mastered, you can save yourself alot of bucks. Intelligence, sensitivity, dilegence and faith build great systems not big bucks. peace Mike
I decided that I had about $1500 to get a system, and after much trial and error I came up with this(prices included shipping and tax): Audio Refinement Amp-$590, Nad C520 CDP-$220, Magnum Dynalab FT-11-$325, Acoustic Energy Aegis 1-$225, AP Oval 12-$125, and AQ Topaz .5M-$65. About $1550 and it sounds damn good. I do plan to upgrade, but I'm very happy for my budget. I think that buying used gives one the ability to try things out without taking a major hit. Let's face it, that's why we are a community...we share more than advice. We all will buy new when we need to and then pass the item on when we 'upgrade'. Just MHO.
Introduction of the the new NT line of B&W CDM series speakers is sure to drive the giant killer CDM1SE down to the "bargian" region. I'd put these speakers up against most anything ... electrostats included. Set these up on good stands with a medium sized amp, maybe a rega plant and that totally under estimated Adcom SLC505 passive controller and you will CRUSH big audio jewelry. Feeling flush? Upgrade the pre to a Mod Squad line drive ... nirvana awaits. Used deals are the way for real music lovers to make real music. At the ripe old age of 31 I've been an audiophile for 16 years ... only twice have I been able to indulge the urge for new gear .... my CDM1SEs and almost ten years earlier than that my still wonderful CAL Icon II. Go to concerts ... there is no substitute for supporting the performing arts in a direct way.
Sdcampbell: If I may comment here..... I agree with you on all counts. Looking for and buying used gear seems to have put the fun and the life back into what has been for a decade to be a dying hobby. In my opinion, all of the BEST gear was introduced when I was too young to buy any of it, where in hence, if I wanted anything of that sort of pedigree, I had to buy newer versions of the older components which in part did not resemble anything their ancestors had resembled (if you could get what I am talking about and what I am trying to say). The following components that come to mind are the NAD 3020 Integrated Amplifier (had an NAD 7225 Receiver in the early 90's... not even the same thing....), a few Nakamichi Cassette Deck (currently have a BX-300, but my dream decks are either a 680ZX, ZX-9, or a CR-7A) and a Magnum Dynalab FT-101 or FT-101A FM Tuner (got an FT-101 recently off of "e-bay"..... wanted this tuner for a long time.... I have even watched this tuner evolve from the original FT-101 into the FT-101A and then still, into the FT-101A Etude.... and has watched the price almost double (if not triple) in its 15 year life span (from $475.00 to a whopping $1,300.00!!!!) I got mine for $590.00 plus shipping..... may be a bit much, but beats $900.00 for a new one.... well, $875.00 to be exact). But, that's the extent of what my views of what classic high-end audio is. Those components are still quite good today and can beat the living shit out of all of this "new and modern" mass market shit that is out there today (which in turn has cut the cost in reference to the quality of parts that are inside their "tinsey and cheap sounding" alluminum chassises, and instead, has chose to invest their dollars needless controls and flashy light show..... things that have little, if any relevance at all in reference to sound quality). Also, the Apt-Holman Separates from the early 80's (remember those, people??) are also on my list as far as "used and good" hi-fi is concerned. But now, for those of you who money to burn and love expensive gear, there are bargains to be found in that sector as well. There is a lot of classic Krell, Levinson, Wadia (and they recently went belly up.... so you might find a top drawer CD Player out there for just a song), Audio Research (my favorites are the SP-6, SP-10 (and MkII) and the SP-11 (and MkII) Preamplifiers) and "conrad-johnson" gear out there. Now, as for used gear itself, about half of my current system was assembled by buying used gear. My System: KEF Reference 102 Bookshelf Monitors (with KUBE Equalizer) was bought brand new (but they're 12 years old now). Adcom GFA-545 MkII Power Amplifier (bought used). Adcom GFP-750 Preamplifier (brand new). Magnum Dynalab FT-101 (the original FT-101, not the newer FT-101A..... bought used). JVC XL-M509TN Compact Disc Player/Changer (brand new). Nakamichi BX-300 Cassette Deck was also bought brand new (and it's 13 years old now). And I am seeking a Meridian 506.18 (the one with the "linear tracking" transport...... not the one with the "curvy one"), or a 506.20 CD Player (will have it upgraded to a "24" at my local dealer) or a 506.24 at a reasonable price. And if you want to know what cables I am using, I am using MITerminator 2 and 3 Interconnects (and for Speaker Cables, the MITerminator 2.... all bought from Audio Advisor) to tie my system together. How's that for my case for buying used gear. Ignore "Sluggo". Cheap shots like that are uncalled for and have no place like that on the internet. I fail to see the relevance in his lame comment. Later... --Charles--