Best surprisingly good value component

Like many of you, I try many components, liking many of them, before settling on one for the final system component (thank God for Audiogon, and buying and selling used gear). Many times I am shocked that the biggest name, and most expensive doesn't sound the best in my system.

I tried many (11) DAC's before settling on the Bryston that I had in my system for a long time. I have had many, many subs, and even more phono stages, both tubed and SS.

So my question is what is the component you have in your system now that is the "best bargain". In other words probably much below the cost of the other components, but you just can't get rid of it because it sounds so good?

For me it's easy: PS Audio GCPH Phono Stage modded by Parts Connexion (sold mostly by Underwood). I bought this as I tried to find the best sub $5k phono stage I could get, and never found one that bettered this to my ear. I don't know that everyone would have this experience, but with my set up, I have yet to find a better phono stage.

I recently went to a higher output cartridge, and tried to go back to the phono stage on my Cary SLP98p F-1 that I have always loved, and found that the Modded PS Audio bests it in all ways by a mile.

Let's hear what your best "bargain" gear is?

Jolida JD 100 modified

Don Allen modified Marantz changer
the Adcom GPS 565 preamp around 200.00 is a great bargin. I would also include a pair of sound dynamics 300ti speakers. For less then 200.00 used you get a speaker almost as good as a pair of spendor sp-1. For amps B&K 202 plus and a Classe DR-9. Both very reliable and tube like...TT you have to go with an original square motor used welltempered.
My Tekton Katz Meow speakers (version 1). I've had planers, ESLs, and horns and had all sounding good. But I kept looking for better. I'm pretty sure that part of it is that those speakers were too big for the room.
I did not expect the Tektons to better the speakers I had, but Eric said go for it and gave me a 30-day trial so I did. The no frills Tektons have me listening more than I have in years, maybe more than ever.
Lenco 75 in new plinth and also the allnic h1200 phono preamp
My listening room, actually. It's below grade on a concrete slab, covered with carpet. 15'X26'X9'. At first blush, I thought that it was going to be a disaster, but with the record racks and book shelves in, there is a nice mix of reflective and absorptive surfaces, the turntables never bounce and it sounds quite good. I am......shocked.
My AES AE-3 Line stage for $350 used then modded by a friend who designed the Veloce preamp. He charged me next to nothing to bring it up to the DJH Sig. version. Niether of us heard that much of a difference. It is far and away my favorite preamp.
My $130 Fried A/3s bought almost mint (made in 1986 and sold for $600) sound so amazingly "right" I will never get rid of them.
My Klyne SK-5A preamp, bought from the first owner about 8 years ago and getting on for 26 years old. As a linestage it was head and shoulders above the Copland model I had before it, and which cost nearly twice as much as the Klyne. With phono the Klyne was just colossally better. I may replace it one day but if so I doubt I'll do as well for the same money.

Two other components I won't be getting rid of anytime soon : my Stellavox ST-2 DAC and my IsoClean power bar. The IsoClean astounded me by making the music "fall together"; I hadn't realized that timing had been subtly off and music could make more sense--because of a dang power bar. The Stellavox plays in the big leagues, with a musical intensity I have not heard from components I can normally afford.

Oh heck, my speakers too, but I better stop there or the whole system will wind up in this post. Meadowlark Shearwater Hot Rods.
In my case, it's a tie between the Vincent SP-331 Amp I purchased on impulse (which has now replaced a VTL ST-150, which cost three times as much, as the amplifier in my main system) and my Spendor s5e speakers -- which I originally bought partly because I loved their overall sound and partly because they wouldn't be out of place in my listening room (which is relatively small). I've auditioned speakers costing a lot more that don't sound any better -- or even as good.
I doubt many people will have owned and sold 11 DACs and then sold the last one they preferred the most because the wife did not use it.

Actually, it was because no one used it since I got hooked on vinyl, and when my wife used the digital set up, she did without turning on the preamp most of the time. I did really love Bryston though, and digital is so convenient, I just can't get away from the warmth of vinyl now.

But thanks for doing the research, it's always good to be thorough.

You, I take it, don't have anything to add to this string?

I take it yo
12-17-10: Shadorne
I doubt many people will have owned and sold 11 DACs and then sold the last one they preferred the most because the wife did not use it.
That's a great observation.

This site is priceless.

One day it's gold, the next it's gone.

You just can't make this stuff up.
Meadowlark Audio Kestrels, either standard or Hot Rod versions as I've owned both. I bought my first pair when Meadowlark was still in business and two other pairs later on. They are the easiest to live with speakers I have owned, and I have tried a lot of speakers. If you want near full-range sound in a small room, they can't be beat.
Gallo Reference 3 or 3.1 speakers.You can pick up a used pair here on
Audiogon for well under $2,000. Gallo's "replacement" 3.5
models list for $6K and many folks, including the current Absolute
Sound issue, believe they're well worth it. Great speakers, IMHO. Dave
Sony XDR-F1HD tuner modded by Radio X Tuners. For $350 nothing else comes close.
Logitech Squeezebox hands down.
Ditto the Logitech Squeezebox...
If you add a Channel Island power supply it gets even better but this thread is about "budget" components. The power supply cost as much as the Squeezebox itself.
My best bargain by far is a pair of Snell Type K/IIs. Close to the wall on a console rather than stands, they're a huge improvement on the much more expensive speakers they replaced. I'm tempted to try to find another pair as a backup because replacing them new would mean Audio Note AN-Ks at more than ten times what I paid for the Snells.
I plan on getting the Squeezebox Touch soon. With the reputation for performance and the value it represents how can you not?
+My Odyssey Kismet Reference Loudspeakers. Bought them here used for 1250, cost 3500 new and they were only a year old and in flawless condition. Totally transformed my system.
I'll second the Meadowlark Kestrels. I've had a pair of Hot Rods since they were new. Used to be in my living room and now in my office. They have such a beautiful, smooth, open sound with precise imaging. I've listened to many more expensive speakers, but few sound as good to me. One thing -- they are weak on slamming hard rock and dance beats. For acoustic, vocals, jazz and most quieter rock, they are fantastic.
I'm still find it somewhat amazing that I'd have to spend at least 4 X more to get comparable performance to a pair of used Thiel 3.5's.
I'm going to add the ridicoulously good Def Tech Supercube1 to this list as well.

I paid $700 for a sub that, once set up correctly, which did take more than a few hours, has performed every bit as well or better than subs I have owned which cost me 5x of this price.

Great sub for music, fast, deep and flexible.

Kudos again to Def Tech one of the best value companies in audio.
The new Daber audio monitor 3 speakers, they give my VSA a real run for the money for way less, That and my McIntosh MA 6600, it is so awesome that despite the relative high cost, it seems worth every penny and more. Both real keepers.
Luxman R117 receiver bought used for less than $300 runs my maggies almost as well as my threshold. Silent audio (seem to be out of business) Apollo interconnects at $50/pair out performed many ICs costing 5 times as much.
I have been spending some time experimenting with Wyred 4 Sound SX 500 mono amps and wanted to get a taste of some sweet tubes in front of them. Not wanting to spend a lot to experiment, I ordered a Space-Tech QA-001 mk2 preamp (about $500 new). I am really enjoying this preamp. The default tube in this model is a 6SL7 but with its Flex-tube design you can also use 6SN7/6SU7/ECC32/ECC33/ECC35/6188 or equiv. With additional tube expansion adapters available thru Space-tech you can also use 6L6, 6K6, 6G6, 6V6, 6F6, 6Y6,KT66,6550, EL34, 5881, KT88, KT99, KT100, etc. Soundstage width and depth are exceptional; instrumental timbers are very realistic; good rhythmic bass drive; and detail retrieval is quite good. Not much to dislike about the unit (unless you need more than one input and then there are other Space-tech models that could be better for your system) and the endless options for tube rolling really help in tailoring the sound to meet your needs. At $500, I think it is a fantastic value purchase. I am definitely keeping it.
Unfortunately, most people will never understand how right Bojack is regarding the Fried A/3. I have a pair of A/6, which were substantially enlarged, but retain the same character. Incredible speakers that are at least as good as current ANY speaker I've encountered under $5000.

Likewise, the Dynaco ST70. When it comes to tone, this more than ubiquitous dinosaur competes with any amplifier. Provided it yields enough power to mate well with one's loudspeakers, and you can get past the fact that its low-end performance definitely does take a back seat to more modern designs, you can put additional decimal points in the price, but really can't do better.
JVC QL-Y5F with a Grado Signature 8. It outperformed a Linn Axis-Rega P3 or both Revox tables in the mid-late 1980's. $200 will get you a solid turntable even by today's standards.
Rhing modified Sony Playstation 1 cd player
Musical Paradise MP-301 6V6 SE integrated/headphone amp
JMR Twin speakers
Don Allen modified cd changer
Woods Yard Master speaker wire
Don Allen Cakepan EL84 SE amp
Fried Model R Speakers
DIYTube ST-35 amp
Epos ES-11 speakers
NHT M00 powered nearfield speakers
Cambridge 840 CD player.