If he's a musician/bass player, he will most likely be happier with pro-audio equipment for home studios. Start with a mixing board with about 12 channels, and a pair of active/powered pro studio monitors so you won't have to worry about a power amp. Musician's are concerned with being able to record their instruments, voices and music more than just playing it back. Also, look into a small multi-channel digital recording console. Make sure he has a CD player that can record and burn CD's - not just playback. Pro gear is generally not very expensive if you know how to shop for it. Just check out Musicians Friend, American Music, Hello Music. Or, if you have a Guitar Center in your area go their - they can help you out.. and if you decide to buy there, don't let them charge you full retail.
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Are you going for 2 channel or surround sound/home theater?
For music only going 2 channel will get you further for the buck.
You'd want a 2 channel integrated amp with minimum 2 analog line level inputs for CD and tape and 1 phono input + perhaps 1 or more digital inputs for connection from other digital sources, like cable box perhaps or ROku, or possibly just additional analog line level inputs for those in lieu of digital.
In general you need to make sure that you have enough line level analog, phono level analog, and digital inputs to handle all teh specific source devices that will be used. Make sure you know the output types for each, including specific type of digital output if used.
I'd look for a NAD 2 channel integrated with phono input + enough suitable inputs to handle all the outputs.
That is assuming tape is play only. If recording will be done, you need an integrated with at least one tape loop circuit and connections (1 out, 1 in).
Make sure the integrated can handle all the input devices, including phono, which is a special analog input that provides the additional gain needed.
That's the nuts and bolts.
Then use whats left for the rest.
Dynaudio monitors would be a good choice of speakers for this setup.
Remember for turntable a cartridge is needed as well. A higher output moving magnet cartridge will simplify things in that most integrated amps in that price range will likely have MM phono input, if not lower level Moving COil (MC). MOving coil cart will likely add expense not needed at this point.
Audioquest would be a safe and good value line for the wires. Which ones, and whether you go new or used, will depend on how much $$$$s left after the rest. Save this for last.
Regarding cassette deck, I've always thought Yamaha to offer good value and performance in more recent years.
Gslone's comments make a lot of sense. Is he the type of guy who would feel more comfortable in a pro audio setting or would he like to sit back and listen to high quality sound?
Make sure he has a CD player that can record and burn CD's - not just playback.
I think this is a must for him in any type of room you build. Also, IMO it's a pretty safe bet that he'll want to play and record with cassette. Maybe you could put together a hybrid type of system.
Thank you for the responses so far. I appreciate the thought of getting him some pro-audio mixing/editing/recording equipment, but unsurprisingly, he does already have what he needs. He does own a computer too, which has a CD burner. I assure you that the cassette deck will not be for making mix tapes :) It will be for playback, and he can always add to this if he gets the overwhelming need to go back and time and dub tapes, i.e. buy a another cassette deck.
You know, with the wealth of gear, past and present that's out there, I really just was hoping for some leads that I could further explore, because for instance if some great CD player came out seven years ago, and there's a DAC that's exceptional that came out last year, I'm ignorant of it and it's no longer being pushed even by the company that made it because they're on to the next one. So, I'm not trying to change the whole plan, but stick to the equipment I've already outlined. Like I said, the sheer number of speaker choices that are out there are definitely overwhelming, and how 8 ohm vs 4 ohm might perform for heavy bass response and separation of instruments would be extremely helpful to me.
The comment that Mapman made about forgetting about a cartridge is definitely something that made me think twice, not because I'd forgotten about it but because I felt in the sub-$1000 category, the turntable would come with a cartridge that then could be upgraded later, but at least there would be one there and it wouldn't be terrible and it would work out of the box.
Thanks again for the responses and kind words so far, keep 'em coming!
Stay away from NAD, please...
You need something with power and detail. It's out there, start with this and go from here:
Harman/Kardon HK990 integrated amp
JBL L890 or Studio 290 speakers. With either of these models, you don't really need a sub in most rooms.
Marantz SA8005 SACD player
or the Oppo, it's a good player.
Turntable: Either of the Audio-Technica models will do
Cartridge: Audio-Technics AT440mla
Cables: BLue Jeans Cables or Monoprice, look them up.
For speakers, I suggest you look at PSB; they are affordable and are excellent for rock music. There are several different levels of spkrs in their line-up. They have a signature house sound and produce a wide soundstage and deep tight bass (when paired with the right amp).
Here is one example, the Image Series which have high sensitivity, IOW, easy to drive. Since the room is small, the T5 floorstander might work and the bass response goes to about 35 dB. (specs are often slightly exaggerated)
FYI, unless you are using a high quality sub, the subwoofer will generally not produce a tight, detailed bass and can sometimes make the bass sound muddy. It should be used to supplement the spkr and not for producing the bass frequencies.
And I would also recommend Blue Jeans Cable. Good "Bang for the Buck."
This is a train wreck waiting to happen.
Who here would like a multi thousand dollar gift in the form of a stereo system picked out for them by someone with limited knowledge of what is available or even wanted, as opposed to the cash to buy what you wanted?
Take him out for cocktails, give him an envelope with the cash in it and tell him what it's for.
Live long and prosper!
Its a lot safer buying things like this for people who will like it but also have no prior opinions or biases going in than for one who might, like a professional musician. Definitely risky I would say.
I give audio things to relatives and friends all the time and things have always worked out fine, but never to a musician or audiophile, unless I know exactly what turns them on. That would make me a bit nervous.
Just to clarify what I meant by pro equipment. I did not mean gear for recording etc. I simply meant something big and loud for playback like a big amp and a pair of bins with 15" woofers and a cheap turntable. Maybe I am not getting the death metal angle but when I was young, I played a Technics deck through a Vox AC30.
Hey Dave ... back in the day, the Crown DC 300 series amps were considered to be top drawer. Seems like most people today turn their noses up when Crown is mentioned. Perhaps Crown decided to go commercial (e.g., PA), but I thought in the early days of audio, the IC 150, the D 150 and DC 300 were considered audiophile grade components.
For the sake of full disclosure I used to own a DC 300 that was built in the late 60s. It just refused to die. About 5 years ago, I picked up a DC 300A for my son. It works A-OK.
One of these days, I've gotta set up a shoot out with my ARC gear. I'd plotz if the DC 300A more than held its own. :)
Thank you again for the considered opinions on this subject. I just wanted to ask a couple specific questions to a few of you that gave specific recommendations on equipment.
To Dave_72 and Lowrider57: Thank you for the multiple category recommendations, however the Harman/Kardon HK990 is 2 grand all by itself, not really a choice when your total budget is $2500. I looked around for this used or sold second-hand and surprisingly (to me) came up with zero results. Is there something less expensive that you could think of? What do you think about my original suggestion of the Denon AVR-3805? Also, I'm kind of surprised you would recommend a turntable that's less than $200 (unless I'm missing something, all the Audio-Technica turntables are this cheap except the USB one which is unnecessary here). Finally, both your speaker recommendations are floor standing speakers and there just isn't room for that here, they have to be able to be either wall-mounted or put on a bookshelf, hence the desire for a sub to complement them. However, your speaker recommendations gave me a good jumping off point and in the course of clicking from one thing to another came across Monitor Audio RX2s and Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1s. What do you think of these speakers and what do you think about pairing them with a REL Strata 3? In my research, I found a good price on this subwoofer but have never heard it, seems highly lauded though. I looked at the PSB speakers website, again, I really can only consider the bookshelfs, but I was uncertain as to how to read the different frequency response values that were dependent on the axis? I thought that the tighter the variance, the better the output of sound, but in their specs it shows that when you go from + or - 3dB to 1 1/2 you lose frequency? And thanks to both of you for the Blue Jeans Cable tip.
Don't feel inhibited from commenting on this too, Audiogon community!
To Bifwynne: I appreciate you opening my eyes to hi-fi from the 60s, but I don't feel good about buying something that is rapidly approaching its 50th birthday :)
Finally, I appreciate everyone's concern for my friend that he actually gets something he wants, but I assure you that I would not undertake this task if I didn't allude to this in conversation. At a certain age, you're grateful for quality gifts, even if you already have an idea of what they're going to be :)
Just to reinforce some of your original ideas;
go with the Pro-ject Debut Carbon, a good "plug and play" TT with a carbon fiber tonearm and an Ortofon Red.
Oppo is a good choice, but buy a used BDP-103. The 105 is clearly over your budget. The 103 has all the features you're looking for.
Now, a subject that only you can decide; do you want a multi-channel setup with an AVR, the Oppo, and more speakers or do you want 2 channel? It seems to me that you don't have the budget for a HT setup.
REL makes excellent subs, but they are pricey. If you can find a used one at a decent price, go for it.
As far as speakers, don't get so hung-up on specs. Anyway, your choice of speaker should be made in combination with the amp. Impedance, Sensitivity and power rating are the most significant specs to consider when pairing an amp and speaker. It will be easy to find a bookshelf with high sensitivity (easy for the amp to drive).
I suggest you go listen to some speakers, as you said, you don't know what's out there. Today's bookshelf speakers are smaller, more efficient, and pack more punch than those of yesteryear. If there are no HiFi shops close-by, then go to a Best Buy Magnolia room.
Hope this helps.