You ask in my opinion a difficult question because there is such a huge number of manufactures and brands available. I believe you should stay with equipment in your general area that you can actually listen to, so that you will know how it sounds, and if you like it.
If you want to buy new as you stated I think your funding will quickly disappear.
You also need to determine if you want solid state or tube equipment.
Start with a decision on speakers, then you will have an idea what your needs will be for an amp or integrated amp, preamp, CDP, interconnects and speaker cables etc.
Sounds like fun, good luck on your journey.
I recommend reading Premium Home Theater by Earl Geddes before contacting Rives. At the very least you'll go into the project with a good working knowledge of the theory and what options you have, and after reading the book you -- like me -- may even decide you can skip Rives and just find a good reputable contractor. I'm no handyman by any stretch, but the book does such a thorough yet totally approachable job of giving instructions and product recommendations that it should be relatively easy for anyone with construction skills. And obviously you'll have a good bit of extra dough to drop on better equipment to boot. Best of luck with your exciting project.
Proper acoustic design is a very good place to begin, I'd like to put a plug in for Jeff Hedback at HD Acoustics
I have had the pleasure of being in rooms designed by Jeff.
Best of luck
I wouldn't get caught up in the solid state vs tube discussions. Simply come up with a list of equipment in your price range, go listen to them, regardless of whether they are solid state or tube and decide what you like from there. If you fall into the prejudiced arguments, you really are hurting yourself as there are some great solid state equipment and alternatively some great tube equipment. Decide by closing your eyes, play your favorite music and decide for yourself. $20k to $30k isn't bad at all, especially if you don't limit yourself to new equipment and are open to used. Since you want computer audio, I would expand it a bit to include a separate DAC capable of USB input. Anyway you look at it, take your time, decide ahead of time where the equipment will be located in your room and run as many (at least three) dedicated lines (separate ground, neutral and hot per dedicate line as you can while the walls are down) and enjoy the hunt with no stress.
So many ways to go....can't Rives help you select equipment as an extra bonus for the money you spend building them a home?
Otherwise I would recommend a system similar to mine. No joke. Of course, that is what most happy listeners here will recommend....what they like of course.
It sounds really good if that is any help. You are welcome to come listen if ever in teh area.
Thank you to all the responses. To be clear, I am looking for a replacement amp, preamp, etc.-new to me. I am certainly open to used and believe that will stretch my dollars considerably.
I also realize this is very personal, however, I would like opinions and some examples of what people have found that just blows you away. I am open to SS and tube and hybrids as I mentioned the LAMM amps. I want bang for my bucks and don't care about brand names.
Rives was recommended by my local shop and they have a number of services and price ranges ($1100 to $15K). Again the budget I proposed is just for the equipment mentioned, not the building of the room. I expect that to be at least $5K to $10K in treatments, design, etc.
So that being said, please express your opinions and tell me some example setups that you love, doesn't have to be your own. I just need to narrow the focus as the selection is a bit overwhelming.
Start with speakers that will meet your listening needs and fit into and work well in your room and go from there.
Consider omni versus more directional versus everything in between for example. Omnis will sound similarly good from any listening position while more directional designs will sound best by far in a small sweet spot for listening.
+1 with Mapman, start by selecting speakers. Find something that "speaks" to you. I can recommend auditioning Janszens, either the zA2.1 or new stand mounted zA1.1 if you can find any near you, but there is a huge array of choices.
Speakers can determine room design. Are they best suited for traditional positioning 2' to 4' out from the front wall? Maybe dipoles better situated 5' + from the wall. Or the currently more rare against the wall or even in corner placement designs. Obviously which design type appeals to you should be established before beginning any room design.
Also, following speaker selection your search for amp(s) and then source components should begin to be focused down to fewer options.
I would suggest that you start by auditioning different types of systems. When listening, make sure to note the amp>speaker interaction, as this is critical, as is speaker placement. The reason I state that auditioning systems first is so important is because you may find out that SET amplifiers present a sound that you find engaging. If that is the case, speaker choices will change. Just as if you find low sensitivity speakers engaging, your amp choices will change.
Only you can decide whether a single ended amp with high sensitivity speakers sound better to you than a low sensitivity - high power amp combo. The right amp/speaker combo is the key.
I am going to take a different approach. I suggest that you allocate $1000 and go out to RMAF in Denver and hear LOTS of systems ad components in the same (relatively bad) acoustics. It will narrow down the search considerably and let you have a FUN weekend as well. Just my take....
Always start with speakers, and then match the amps to them. Then the source and cables.. Don't forget power too, dedicated AC lines are a given if doing things from scratch.
The recommendation to go to RMAF is a good one, also NY audio show coming up in a few weeks if you're on the east coast.
I built a dedicated music room in my basement and the basement flooded with 2 feet of water a few months after the room was built. I would suggest you be very careful...under ground level is a questionable choice.
Congratulations on a great opportunity.
I agree with Erikminer as paraphrased following: Always start with speakers, and then match the amps to them. Dedicated AC lines are a given if doing things from scratch. Go to RMAF.
If you have some leeway on actual room dimensions make sure you get input from your consultant in order to optimize those.
Take care in selecting your analog source, and make sure it is an excellent performer commensurate with the rest of your equipment. You cannot fix problems here by compensating downstream.
I have the similar sized room, and of course think my system sounds great for the room size, so I think you will be able to have a great sounding system in your room even if it is not as big as you would like.
Thank you all for the information. I will start by choosing speakers and will attend RMAF this year to help. I hope it isn't a $1,000 to enter.
What equipment are you replacing? Why? What will you pay Rives? If you are building a 12 x 18 room - Rives or any other room designer is, in my opinion, of less value to your enjoyment than spending a like amount of money on better equipment options- conditioning, cables, basic room treatments. A room of those dimensions have been "analysed to death" and I'm confident you can find information to guide you. It is not rocket science. A 12 X 18 room is what it is.
Briefly: you have no history here so it can't be referred to.
Advising what is your favorite or most important or most listened to music will help the interested make suggestions. Right now the target is too vague. You need to guide the help. Best wishes.
I currently have an NAD 390DD integrated digital amp, DefTech Mythos ST speakers, a Project 2 Experience turntable and a MacPro running as my music server. Not bad stuff, just very ordinary and I am looking for extraordinary sound out of my new room. Rives will be as little as $1,200 so not too concerned about that cost. I just know it doesn't make sense to put great stuff in a bad room. My current room sounds terrible due to a very low ceiling, openings, windows, fireplace, etc.
I listen to all types of music from NIN to Miles Davis. It just depends on the mood I am in for my selection. I like very clean, accurate music and I do like it LOUD.
Google "constructing a listening room" You'll note dimensions are where some companies start--but--you have stated your dimensions-so work with them. Don't make the room smaller for better dimension sake - use techniques to maximize the sound from as large a room as you have available, 12X18. What is your exact ceiling height-assuming at least 2x 5/8 inch drywall using Green Glue for vibration reduction? And read Green Glue website, ASC and other manufacturers of listening space products. What will you floor with? I assume your basement has a concrete floor. I respectfully suggest you use area carpets? They are cheap, attractive and you may find more tan 1 a benefit.
LOUD means you will want room treatment to make it enjoyable.
It would be helpful if you provide an estimate of how you think you might allocate your funds.
Put your estimate of value for speakers, amp, cables including powercords, ac isolation/conditioning , turntable interconnects, disc player (I think you must buy something that is also a dac with the flexibilty to handle your computer audio, radio feed,cd,dvd,etc. We know 32 bit processing is the future, for now, (is that oxymoronic) so keep it in mind; see Spectral Audio and Esoteric at least. (Processing is now reaching a level of diminishing returns so buying a good modern dac is worthwhile. What do you envision as your most used source? ( Um, I wish I had your challenge of new room & equipment!). Have fun :)
PS.You can make a wise speaker(s) choice buying quality mains with limited low frequency (particularly under 70/80 cps/hz). Buy 2 powered subs with 8- 10 inch woofers maximum and plan to crossover between 80-120, using variable roll off/cut off points and phase controls for fine tuning. Bass is the biggest problem in full range music in a 12 x 18 room and there is tremendous benefit using subs (for basic sound from your mains speakers as well.
We are in the early planning stages so I only have my first draft of plans. I was limited by a number of variables and 12x18 was the largest room possible. The floor will be concrete and I may use wall to wall carpet if tests the best choice. I have read about green products and thought that wax a hood step.
I have not broken down the budget for various pieces. I just know I want it to sound great. I may spend $30k or I may go to $50k if necessary. I just bought a 3-day pass to RMAF in October so that will be very helpful in my decisions.
I guess I'll have yo wait until October to make any decisions on equipment.
Guess I should have spell checked.... Damn iPhone.
Some questions and comments in no real order: Where are you located? Have you visited any local (if they exist) dealers? Are you thinking of special construction? What are your expectations and real wants and real needs? As it was stated, a 12 x 18 room is not that much of a challenge, unless you want to use special materials. A basement room with concrete floors and a wall or two will sound different than a living room, etc. Yes, you want to cover the floor or use wood with area rugs. The real risk is over dampening. Larry Borden of DaGoGo built an addition to his home, you may want to ping him.
Re: your room - as a former property manager for many years, I used this home theatre product (Green Glue) in several different commercial and residential applications to deaden the noise coming from one unit to another. It was a very cost effective solution and very simple to use and may just save you some money during construction.
RE: New Gear - Ever since I heard tube gear, I've always preferred it to SS, but the very first time I heard SET (single ended triode) amps, I was completely blown away (hence my a'gon name). It was at an SET show in Philly in the mid 90's which featured about 8 different amps from the top people in the industry that I got to hear amps using 845's, 211's, 300B's and 2A3's and came away concluding that the lowest powered amp (the 2A3 amp) which was also the cheapest, sounded best to me.
Many years later, I got to go to another audio show and on that day was able to compare a low powered SET amp that used interchangeable triode tubes (2A3's, 45's, 10's, 50's & 300B's) to several other push pull tube amps which used KT88's, 6550's, EL34's, EL84's, 6L6's and 6B4Gs and also a couple of digital amp/ tube preamps combos and came away with the same conclusion that in order of preference, I liked the low powered SETs the best followed by a push pull 6B4G & EL84 amp followed closely behind by the digital/tube preamp combo. Once again, the lowest powered amp, the 2-8 watter, followed by the 12 wpc, 18 wpc and 25 wpc amps were the best of the day to me....
After over 30 years in this hobby, low power with high efficiency speakers just sounds best to me after all of that auditioning. YMMV, and I'd be curious to hear your take on things after checking out the RMAF.
Of course, if you do concur with me and like low powered SETs the best, it not only narrows down your choices immensely, you potentially can save a bundle on your audio budget and can take the family on a nice vacation or some nice new jewelry for the misses :)
Enjoy the ride :)
If prior experience with home renovation is any guide I would suggest you wait until the project is done before you do anything. First, unless you have an unlimited supply of money you may end up with a lot less money for gear than you think due to cost overruns. Second, the renovation may take much longer than you think and new products (or deals on used gear) that were not available when you purchased are in view since the renovation took a year longer than you thought. Focus on getting the room design and treatments right and once everything is finished figure out what your budget is and start from there. Just an opinion but one borne out of several home renovation "experiences".
JMO but high efficiency speakers and SET is the most musical. Can't say I blame you going with digital front end but make it killer or everything will start to have a sameness to it that becomes boring.
Careful with too dead of a room, and make it wide enough spread the speakers if need be.Been playing with my placement and moved them out around two feet and bingo, the audio hologram appeared. Guy in the middle comes out to sing to us now. You can always deaden the room more but you do carpet and other non-removable adsorption and you're kinda stuck. Good luck. It's fun!