Best sounding system for under $10k

I had been dreaming about acquiring a pair of mbl 116e's since I heard them last year at the expo. I knew I had a very good system but the mbl's give you that you are there feeling. Well I just made a few changes to my setup recently and things kept getting better, so much in fact that I no longer will be looking at those mbls. It was the last change I made that really was the killer. I have sims pre p-5 and power w-5 amp, I had them coupled with rca i/c's, and just yesterday I switched to balanced and WOW what a difference. I am willing to bet that there is nothing out there for under $20k (list prices of course) that can beat this sound. If you are looking for that you are there experience consider how I got there. Speakers; merlin, these are incredible and worth every penny, amp as mentioned earlier sims p-5 w-5 they too are just awesome most defenitely world class , phonostage ear834p another excellent component, tonearm: clearaudio emotion, cartridge : sumiko bluepoint amazing for the money will probably get the blackbird, turntable: vpi tnt mark I and V world class and not overpriced, cables: bluejeans xlr balanced amazing cannot believe how much better the system just got from that change, other cables my own rca interconnects, room treatment: acoustical ceiling tiles, records as in lp's, and book shelves with books on health must be on health ha-ha. And that's it, hard to believe but this was all found used here on agon for under $10k. And I have to add that rarely did I hear a system in any of the retail shops get it right like this one.
I would bet that a lot of members will respond saying their system is teh best under $10k...that's what I'd say. Of course that is the result of years of tuning to the sonic traits I seek.
Judging best would depend on who the listener is.

What's better? Blue or red?
For those who responded I hear you all. In the past I knew when my system was not where I wanted to be, I try to have a realistic take on things, and I kept striving for a better sound because I knew it could get better, but for you who misunderstood what I was trying to say, is that this system surpassed what I had anticipated. Did you eva get that? And by the way yes I agree with what was said it is a matter of personal preference, but (again another but) the imaging and soundstage are startling.It caught me by surprise;~)
Pedrillo, surprises like yours are what make this such an addicting hobby! I bet your Simaudio combo sounds great with Merlins. Do you have the TSM or VSM? Which balanced IC are you using?
Gunbei, I have the vsm's and am using the bluejean cables that cost only $50 a pair.go figure , I wonder if it can get better, I question the overpriced cables.
Pedrillo, I've owned some expensive cables, but am also of the opinion that you can get quality sound without spending a lot on them.

I've been using Acoustic Zen interconnects for a few years and really like them, but at $995 for the Silver Ref II and $495 for the Matrix Ref II they're definitely the ceiling on what I plan to spend for cables. You can always get used samples on Audiogon for about half the price of new for the Silver Ref II and about 60% of retail for the Matrix Ref II.

I've been comparing the Acoustic Zen against some Z Squared interconnects I won on auction on Audiogon. Depending on how many people you're bidding against you might be able to snag the Z-Squared AUAU for $120-190 and the Copper for $80-120.

Interesting comparing the Z-Squared versus the Acoustic Zen interconnects, because the best I can say so far is that they're different. When you have most of your system locked in and you're doing specific tuning and comparisons rather than having one IC blow another, it usually works out to be a case of where one does attribute A, B, and E better than other while not doing C and D quite as well. And all that in different degrees.

So it isn't always easy deciding between cables, and often you have to decide which sacrifices the least. Based on forum opinion I was really hoping that the cheaper ones might replace the more expensive ones, but I may have to take longer to decide. Not surprising since different systems react differently to different cables, heheh.

So for you I'd try to remain as economical as possible with cables, however I'd bet that a lot of forum members could suggest something in $100-200 range that might improve on what you have.

Bottom line. If you're currently happy with your set up do your best NOT to get curious and bite the upgrade bug!

Congratulations on an awesome system. I agree you can do very well on Audiogon buying second hand gear...there are many reasons that people sell excellent gear second hand (divorce, upgrading, downsizing, moving home etc.) - you just have to be patient - and that appears to be exactly what you have done and built a system of your dreams!

Just the other day, I noticed a pair of ATC SCM 100 ASL for sale with all the latest mods/upgrades at a steal compared to the price for a new pair. Of course not many people have the appropriate space or care for the power that such huge speakers provide, furthermore, if you care deeply for aesthetics then chances are these behemoths will get scratched easily in shipping due to their size and weight. In fact, I have often seen smaller models of the same speaker sell for much more second hand! Together, however, these drawbacks may add up to a bargain price for someone with the right space; a system that the likes of Pink Floyd, Mark Knopfler, Telarc, Doug Sax and many other artists/studios prefer.
Pedrillo, congrats! You've joined us in the "My system's the best in the world for X dollars" club!
One last addition to my incredible sounding system I got the SUMIKO BLACKBIRD and it brought my system up a big notch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
really worth it !
It amazes me that the best system in the world for X dollars was able to be improved upon by a big notch with two rather small changes (that may have not even added tot he overall cost of the system).

Yes, I realize that all systems can be improved upon in some way or another, but come on folks lets get real about proclaiming "best" so prematurely.

I wouldn't mind seeing a posting of people suggesting a complete system based on years of development and based on the key factors - what they want in sound, what type of music they listen to, the size of their room. After pointing out all of the positive aspects of such a system, the poster should be compelled to point out the weaknesses of the same system (ie. great with classical, not so much with hard rock). (Great with bass extension, but not quite as tight as standard acceptability.)

I think it is more informative to convey this information, and I think it is also more helpful to all involved.
Mine! (Best for me by all comparisons.) I've seen all of my gear as used for sale here on A'gon except for the WyWires ICs and NOS tubes. You can duplicate my entire system buying used on A'gon except for the WyWires ICs and NOS tubes you'd have to buy as new/NOS, including subwoofer ICs, PCs, SCs, and surge suppressor/filterer (for CDP and pre), all for just under $10k. Room: large, oddly shaped, open, cathedral ceiling. Habits: all music except rap and serious classical; peaks at seat 11’ away never breach 100db. Best attributes: organic, unrestricted, non-fatiguing, natural tone, fully extended, clear. Worst attributes (although not important at all to me): unsatisfying at low SPLs; not most resolving; not most dynamic. I can live very happily ever after with this system as is.
Rockadanny, that is a great post, especially due to the fact that you are honest about weaknesses and well described strengths/listening habits. However, for long term useage by others, I would suggest listing the components (as going to your system thread is likely to change as things move forward - possibly at least).
Ck - actually, my system thread is up to date and likely to not change (seriously, I mean it this time :^). But here it is anyway:
CDP - Opera Audio Consonance Ref 2.2 (upgraded w/ AuriCaps and ECC99);
Pre - Mapletree Audio 2A/SE (upgraded w/ Back Gates; NOS Sylvania rectifier tube; NOS 12SN7 Tung-Sol grey T plates for line stage);
Power Amps - Audio Mirro 45 Watt SET monoblocks (NOS Sylvania input and driver tubes);
Mains - EgglestonWorks Fontaines (originals, not model IIs);
Subs - ACI Titans (2);
PCs for amps - VH Audio Flavor 4s;
ICs for CDP-pre-amps - WyWires;
ICs for subs - bluejeanscable;
SCs - Harmonic Technology Pro 9+;
BrickWall Power Surge Suporssor/Filterer - for CDP and pre only.
And BTW, when I stated "not most resolving" or "dynamic", I do not mean it is not so, just not hyper resolving or hyper dynamic. It is satisfyingly resolving and dynamic enough for me while retaining massive musical appeal.
I think Rockadanny's comments above are terrific in sharing the characteristics of a system and is often times the type of information OPs are seeking with just such a thread. I typically wouldn't throw out my favorite system, but it does not meat the OPs designation as sub $10K. But as time progresses and costs come down, it will some day. That being said, my favorite system to date has been:

Logitech/Squeezebox Duet and various transports
DCS Delius/Purcel
Transaprent balanced Super
Aesthetix Calypso with upgraded tubes
Balanced Transparent Ultra to (or Stealth Dream for a bit warmer sound)
Krell FPB 300C amp
Transparent Ultra SC
Wilson W/P 5.1 spkrs

Strengths in my room:
Incredibly dynamic.
Incredible depth and width of sound stage with terrific focus.
Highly resolving, detailed (I like) yet still emotional (not cold or sterile as opponents of both Wilson and Krell say).
Very solid/controlled bass (though not to the most extremes)
Very natural sounding, not bright as some claim of Wilsons and Krell.

Can be a bit forward for some, and very forward to those that like lush, bloom and bloat sounding systems (nothing wrong with those systems if that is what one wants).
Bad recordings sound bad (from a critical listening perspective). Especially harder rock, recorded poorly.
A bit of a mid-bass hump, but this is also partly responsible for the excellent imaging and focus.
Unforgiving of bad placement, poor quality components and the likes.
You really need space for the speakers, bad placement completely changes their performance characteristics.