Best redbook CD playback system for $30k

I have $30k to spend on a stereo system to play back redbook CDs. I like very natural and dynamic "live - you are there", sound and need to fill a 28' x 30' room with 12' ceiling with clean moderate to slightly loud music. I listen to all types of music with emphasis on jazz and classical. There is no "wife approval" to be factored in here so size and shape does not matter. Only the music mattters. I do need to be able to go out and buy this system so all components must be NEW and readily available for purchase. What would you buy?
Maraknetz,does it play SACD or CD only?
First, you are crazy to buy new.

Second, it seems a bit rash to buy without listening a wide variety of equipment before deciding on the sound you like. (No?)

Third, congratulations on having no “WAF” to deal with. (You don't have one or she's so smitten with you that you could ride a smelly camel through the house and she would simply glow with admiration while reaching for the vacuum cleaner and Lysol?)
do you HAVE TO spend 30k?
30k just for a cd see so many people here that seem perfectly content with their 5-10k aero, accuphase, wadia etc. If you really feel the need to spend more...go get a full DCS system...never heard it...just know that it is super expensive. me on the other hand...I'm with the others.

1. A car...
2. Buy used...or better yet
3. give me the
I think you would be very happy with the system I am using. It matches all of your stated preferences and would be a nice fit in your room.

Pioneer DV-47Ai transport
Audio Synthesis DAX Discrete Variable DAC (no preamp required)
Atma-Sphere M-60 amps
Köchel K-300 loudspeakers

About 30K new including cabling and accessories.
Wow!!! I guess that I must live in another universe. I am a high school teacher of 28 years with two children in college and one who will start next year, and I am sweating bullets over spending 700 on a universal player. My truck was only $7000. Besides my house, I don't think I have ever purchased anything over $30k. I do love my music, but maybe I should take up bird calling. Or maybe somebody needs to share the wealth.
Gee, one useful answer out of 7 replies (thank you Wellfed). I guess everyone is in a joking mood today.

I am serious. I have $30k saved up to buy the redbook CD playback SYSTEM of my dreams. (Sytem means CD player, preamp, amp, speakers and all interconnects.) And of course I am going to audition the components before I make a purchase. That's why I say NEW and readily available. Sure you can save money by buying second hand from Audiogon, etc. but unless the seller is in your area and is willing to let you try components, you cannot easily audition the piece.

I'm looking for a starting point. I am looking for suggestions from people for good components that will fit this price range. And yes, I only care about redbook CD. Forget SACD, DVDA, vinyl, etc.


Thanks for the suggestions. I took a quick look on the web and your system appears to be very good bang for the buck. I will look for these components in my area and have a listen. Just curious, what do you use for interconnects?

Thanks again.
Best redbook playback I've ever heard is the Meitner. Since you're loking for two channel, go with the DCC2. Then, you just need amps and speakers.
OK, I'll play...
Exemplar mod'ed Denon 2900 universal player ($3.5k)
Placette passive ($1.2k)
Jena Valkyrie 1m rca ic x 2 ($5k-$6k ?)
Stellavox mono's with Goldmund Job 4 ($2.8k)
Supra power cords x 2 ($.5k)
Tonian Lab TLM-1 ($14k...uses raven 1 tweeter and PHY 30HP driver...98db/16 ohm...I had a hard time believing the stellavox was the right amp too until I heard it...I have lots of great SET's that sound really good too with these speakers)
Symposium rack ($2k)

System Total = about $30k retail

I never would have put this system together six months ago but today if this is what I was spending I don't know what else I would put together that would sound as good.

In my system I use the
Meitner DCC2, CDSD front end
Stealth Supra IC
Goldmund 18.4 mono's
In place of their above listed counterparts.
new equipment what's that? used $30k system will beat $75k new system.
used Genesis 201 speakers $15,000
used current spec VTL 450 amps $6,000
used GNSC Statement Wadia 861 CD player $6,000
used XLO Limited Ed. IC's $1500
used XLO Ulimited Ed. speaker cables $1500
total $30k or less used $
have to agree with the wadia recommendation.
i've never heard the GNS mod, but i've heard good things...
the wadia's seem to have all the right bits, but as a friend comented, need a bit of a shake to get them all in the right place. i'm led to believe that the GNS mods do this.
but personally i would go for VAC amplification.
i went with the entry level VAC and love it. I'm only left wondering how the models further up the range might improve? budget allowing i would experiment higher up the range.
i'd consider going with no pre amp between the wadia and the amps, as it seems to add a little to the bass in my system.
Thiels seem to work very well with VAC gear as Kevin Hayes the designer / owner of VAC uses them to test his gear, hence degree of synergy.
also don't forget the cabling....
at the moment i've been demoing some OMIGA AUDIO cables from an English company of that name. very big bang for the buck IMHO, and Tony is a really nice guy.
Just want to reinforce the recommendation of Wadia with Great Northern Sound mods ( In fact, call Steve Huntley at GNSC and pose this same question. I've had two components moded by him and he really knows his stuff! I know he could point you in the right direction when seeking synergy between amp, preamp(if needed) and CDP.
Just a thought, regarding new vs. used. With 30k, you could put together a used system that would have retailed for close to 50k or better. The idea would be to carefully buy used, here on Audiogon. You could live with each piece for a while, and re-sell here at little or no loss. ( I actaully made a small profit on one or two of my used pieces)

I have used this approach over a 2 year period to slowly upgrade and build up my system.

It is not as fast going out and buying it all new, and it can sometimes be frustrating, but it is more of a "hobby" approach.

My system would retail for around 45K new. It could be had here on audiogon for around 25k or so. It does a very nice job with redbook. My listening tastes are similar to yours, a little of everything with a lot of Jazz and Classical.

Oh, one more idea: you could listen to what others have achieved. For example, if you are in the NJ area, you are welcome to come over and give a listen to my system. Just bring an appropriate beverage! I am sure you would find many here who would be happy to share, its part of the fun.


I agree with Ron (Rlips), buying used is the way to go. You get so much more for your dollar. (For me, this was more a labor of love, as listening to music is my hobby.)

Buying used allowed me to put together a system for half the amount that buying new would have cost. I upgraded my entire system over the last 18 months this way. I too saved tens of thousands of dollars doing this. (Plus it was fun doing the research, and reading up on what was good and what wasn't. Interacting with fellow audiophiles was interesting as well. Also going to the Stereophile show in SF and doing listening tests helped a great deal too. I also went to a few dealers to listen, but not too much, as I kind of think that is stealing, in a way, since I knew I was going to buy used equipment.)

However, there are a down sides to this:

One, you usually can not demo pieces of equipment at home. (Although, even dealers are slowly taking that away.) However, you can buy and sell them for about the same price you paid. Typically you will only be out the price of shippping.

Two, in most cases, but not always, the warrenty is not transferable. This is a consideration, but most high end pieces of equipment are built to pretty high standards, and if they are going to fail, they will typically do so in the first few hours of use.

Three, there is always that fear that the seller is a scam artist and you just sent off a cashier's check for several thousand dollars to a guy (or girl, as "almost" happened to me), that you would never hear from again. You can reduce the odds of this happening by using Paypal, or escrow services, or even by speaking by the telephone with your seller. (I always tried to buy from local sellers, and was lucky, that about 2/3's of my purchases were local.) I always tried to speak with the sellers via telephone to sound them out. You can tell when a seller has a passion for this hobby.

That being said, I think you should go out and do some listening to give us some input on whether you like:

Tube or solid state preamps or amps,
(Or maybe you want to skip the preamp entirely, and want to just go from the cdp straight into the amp);

Planer, horn or dynamic speakers,
(Or perhaps you'd like smaller satelite speakers, with subwoofers);

Should the cd player scarafice the last bit of detail in order to get a more musical sound.

These are all things YOU should be deciding upon, not us.
You are paying the money, and if you don't pick it out, you will NOT be satisfied, at least in the long run. (At which point you will then start to sell off pieces that you don't like. And if you paid retail for it, you will lose HALF your money. (Yes, back to buying used again.)

By the way, given your budget, I think you should budget a few thousand for a analog source, since your $30K budget will easily allow you to put together a system that does both analog and digital very, very well. (I spent just a little less than you, and have an incredible system now that has both analog and digital sources.

My two cents worth anyway.

Good Luck in your search! (And have fun doing it!)

PS BTW, buying new phono cartridges is a good idea, at least until you know what you are doing. Perhaps even buying the the entire analog setup new is a good idea, although, I managed to buy a used TT and tonearm, and just bought a new cartridge and had the dealer install it properly. Just in case you decide to take my advice and get an analog source too.

PPS One more last minute thought. Perhaps you could offer some local audiophiles a nice bottle of wine (or a six pack of beer) to go a listen to their system, as was already suggested. That way you could listen and see what you liked. (And if you really want to be lazy, pick the best system you like and copy it. Or pay the owner of the best system to pick you out a stereo system, saving yourself the time. Heck, I'd do it if I was local to you!)
A lot of good advice here, principally on buying used. If you are going to buy new, though, I'll be contrarian and suggest you go to a dealer you trust (I can recommend several in NJ) and listen to systems in your price range and below to see what YOU like, not what we think you'd like. Your room size is not likely to keep you away from the big speakers, so you'll have plenty of choices, but if you get a GOOD dealer they should be able to put together systems that work well together, then it's up to your ears to determine what sounds best to you. Good luck!
Wadia 831 direct balanced into
Atmasphere 60 watt monos
Coincident Victorys
Vandersteen subs (2)
Coincident cables

The balls :))
Don't know exact price, but can't imagine any better.
If you don't want an all-tube amplifier, use an Aria hybrid WT100XL, or solid state: Gamut D200.
And think about the modifications someone mentioned!
Since you ask what I would buy,I'd spend 10 and leave the other twenty in the bank because I believe the improvement I would gain for the last twenty would not equal the money spent. I do not presume to tell you what you should do or spend.

Restricting myself to new equipment,I'd go to http://www.avahifiand order the better fet/valve amp,the best fet/valve preamp,and the fet/valve dac. I'd get a disk player with a digital out and a pair of Magnepan 3.6 speakers. Then,I'd deaden the room acoustically.

Enjoy your search.
You can definitely lower your dollar costs by buying used, but it will be significantly harder for you to achieve satisfactory results. If you wish to delve into the minutiae of system assembling and room acoustics while you critically listen to dozens of combinations of equipment, then buying used on Audiogon is an excellent way to spend the next year (or two) putting together a system. I strongly suggest you read the following Audiogon thread titled The Secret to A Good Sounding System. It will give you an idea of the amount of effort needed to put together a good sounding system. Alternatively, you could work with a high end retailer and ask them to design your room, system and provide setup.

Regardless of what method you choose, I would strongly recommend you spend at least 20% on room acoustics. You will never achieve high quality sound without addressing the room acoustic issue.
If you consider acoustical treatments for the room as part of the system, that could be the place to start and could take up a considerable portion of your budget. That's a big space you have there.

I have a Zcable Live v4 1 Meter balanced interconnect between DAC and amps. I use XLO Signature speaker cable in a shotgun configuration. I am told this is a close equivalent to the XLO Unlimited speaker cable.

You are probably going to have a tough time auditioning these components quickly though depending on where you live.
If you are going to buy new then find a local dealer that will treat you right. Take recomendations/auditions from them. Lets face it most components in this price range are going to be very good it just comes down to personal preference and you might as well buy local where you can hear the components together as one system. You will also be in much better shape should something go wrong with a component.
I think with that amount of money and a desire to buy new you should be asking for dealer recommendations, rather than equipment recommendations. Then let the dealer(s) put together systems that you can demo, preferably in your home.
I would spend $10,000 on LP playback and take the other $20,000 and go on a world trip.
After a lot of research and listening tests this is the system I came up with. Since it blows my budget by a few $K I will have to heed the advice of the many contributors to this thread and buy at least one component used.

Audio Aero Capitole CD player with integral preamp
Audiopax Model 88 amplifiers
AvantGarde Duo speakers

Total for this system if purchased new at retail prices would be ~$35k before tax. And I must add interconnects. But I think I can do it if I buy some components used.

This will make for an excellent "live sounding" system.

Thanks to all for the suggestions.
Congratulations Rmf,

I personally think you made a great choice going with the horns. I like your other choices as well.

Jim Smith, Avantgarde distributor, is high on Cardas Golden Reference cabling.

I would recommend purchasing all you can used and spending the rest of your budget on accessories. One I would highly recommend is Machina Dynamica Promethean or Nirvana Bases for isolation control. Use these atop roller bearings for phenomenal results.