Cheap Stuff That Keeps Up?

I know that the old maxim, "You get what you pay for" is often true -- but what about those exceptional instances when it's not?

I own a few products that are so relatively cheap compared to the competition that it's digusting, while providing equal or near-equal performance. I am going to list some of my favorite overachievers and I'd like to hear from others who have found similar products.

If the owners of very expensive gear find this thread upsetting, I can't say I blame them. It is sort of unsettling to find products that cost 10% to 50% of what you bought that sound about as good!

1) Origin Live Rega RB 250 tone arm -- keeps up with some arms 3 and 4 times its price, albeit, VTA-setting is tedious and inconvenient. But when it's set right, look out!

2) ART DI/O DAC (about $200) offers performance as good as most $1000 to $2000 DACs, especially when used with Monolithic P3 power supply.

3) AR S112 PS subwoofer (16" cube, 120W powered 12" down-firing sub). I bought one on sale at 6th Avenue Electronics for my HT system for $150. Liked it so much I bought another for use with my B&W CDM 9NTs. It blends beautifully and has plenty of punch and very good articulation/definition. Does not go quite as low as my Paradigm Servo-15 -- does not cost $1500. AR also makes a powered, down-firing 15" sub for a little more money. I bought the 12" version because of it's more compact dimensions. Solid to below 30 Hz.

4) Z-man ASE tube line buffer. Want your sub-$1000 solid-state preamp (or inexpensive CD player) to sound like an expensive tube unit (and in some cases better!)? Add the Z-man ASE ($199 MSRP), change the stock Sovtec 12AX7 to a premium-quality 12AX7 (like a Mullard) and you will be there. The unit is especially useful because it will drive long cable runs due to its low output impedance.

That's all for now. What are your giant-killer picks?

Happy Holidays to All!
Id have to say NAD amps and MIT wires but my Sonus Faber Extremas by your definition. They may have been $11,000 but comparitively there is nothing better.
My NBS Monitor 0 speaker cables, the best deal going! Just kidding! I'd have to say my BAT VK-60, bought it used for 2K(or so) and I don't think much can come close to it until you hit the 5k range(used). I have had great luck with products from NAD and Rotel in the past, great products for the money.
Adcom GFP-750 preamp (I know, opinions vary) was a steal. Also, the used Bryston amps. For $300 to $400 you can get an original 3B. Even older than 10 years, they're rock solid and sound a lot more expensive.
I'm relatively new to digital sources/components, however, I have to say that I'm impressed with the ART Di/O once it has been heavily modified. Is it a giant killer? I don't know, like I said, I'm new to digits ...
This is an interesting thread that can spawn ideas for some great performing low-cost systems. Keep the ideas coming, but remember, the goal is to list those components that provide exceedingly high sound quality for very few dollars. Try to stay under $1000 or better still, under $500 for any single component. Used gear can be included, as long as it's qualified as such. Thanks to those who've replied so far. :)
The original giant killer, the NAD 3020 integrated. You see the 3020's come up every so often for around $150. In the same league is the B&W DM302 speakers @ $200, incredible value. Ridiculous how good these little monitors are for the money, irritates me B&W discontinued the 302's last year and replaced them with a more expensive model.
Jeff, I own a NAD 3020 integrated and couldn't agree more. Even by today's standards it offers surprisingly good sonic performance that is on par with much more expensive units. I'll take your word on the B&W DM302s, though I have not heard that particular model. Thanks!
Several of the Antique Sound Labs amps are killer!
1) $100 Aiwa CD Changer with $129 Stan Warren mod used as a transport. Even without the mod it makes a good transport. Stan's Pioneer DVD Player mod is also a steal.

2) In addition to the DM302, the also discontinued B&W P5. Sold for only $1500 list, now used on eBay for an absolute steal at around $600. These speakers were never popular. With good equipment, they put the CDM series to shame, and I even preferred them over the Matrix 804. They also look nice in light Cherry.

3) The Cambridge Audio CD4, CD4SE, and CD6. Still nice CD players used; in some ways preferable to the now popular D500SE. Add to that their A3i Integrated Amp (by Creek).

Ok. Good thread and some of my choices :

1. Forte 4 amp ($500). Sweet, open & punchy

2. Paradigm Studio 20's , version 1 ($300) Ditto

3. Paradigm Active Studio 20's ($700). As above but with amps and electonic x-overs included. Astonishing value here.

4. HK Citiation 7.1 amp ($800) and 7.0 Processor ($500). A 120W, 4 channel amp that can be configured for 2,3, or 4 channels. Built like a tank by Madrigal, sounds great with an inviting ease. The 7.0 preamp is one of the few active preamps I like. Seven inputs with analog pass thru to front channels. Built in electronic x-over option, lighted remote, sonically extended at both ends, not a harsh bone in its body. Reminds me a LOT of the ML 38S. I'm keeping these!

5. Apogee Stage & stands ($800), Duetta Signatures ($1700), Caliper Signatures ($1200). What can I say. Very demanding of room position and upstream components (especially the amps and wire)but when you get it right, they are musical transporters to the event.

6. Various tables from the 70's. Specifically, Dual 1219 & 1229's, Elac 770H & 50 H, BSR 710 & 810 and Thorens TD-160. ($50-200 depending on model & condition). Yes, they are out there and there are some excellent samples in excellent condition. You just have to root them out. Usually come with a cartridge (Shure M91, 95ED's or Grado's). Yeah, the changers can be a little noisier than modern tables, but when properly set up and aligned with modern tools & new phono leads, they are a hoot to use, won't damage your vinyl, and sound astonishingly good. Watch out for the morons who are totally clueless when it come to packing a table.
Rega Brio... Rega cartridges.. JPW millenium speakers..
Triangle Titus Monitors $495 new list, $275-$400 used. In the right setup, pure magic. Very revealing, critical of upstream components, but a dirt cheap glimpse of the "Hi-End".

soliloquy sat-5's for $500 (300-ish used or b-stock)used as small main speakers (way better than similar paradigms etc)

sonic frontiers sfl-1 preamp used for around $400 -- no remote and no phono but sound that is hard to beat. I've since had much better and much more expensive preamps but they've mostly given me convenience (phono, remote) and not significantly improved sound
Put all your giant killer gear on the giant killer neuance platforms.
1. Any Spica speaker (used) : will image as well as anything up to $1500, and can be had for around $500.
2. Audiolab 8000A and 8000S seem to be ridiculously cheap on the used market in the US, and are rather good.
I'll 2nd the Audiolab 8000A as a used bargain. I bought mine used about 10 years ago for about $275. This amp responds extremely well to a decent power cord (I've used mine with both Cardas Golden and Blue Circle BC 62) and for $400 or $500 for the combination (amp and cord) will, in my opinion compare very favourably to much more expensive competition.
Can't beat Acoustat 1+1 ESL speakers. An allmost full range electrostatic speaker for $500 to $750 on the used market!
Yes duke, If you have the ceiling height the Acoustat 1+1s are an incredible bargain for the level of reproduction they can provide. Mate them with a nice gutsy solid-state amp and a decent tube preamp, add subwoofers and let 'er rip!

I was fortunate to hear a pair that had the perimeter of the panels mortited and crossed over to a pair of attached Maggie ribbon tweeters and those speakers did some things amazingly well. They had the most articulate mid to upper bass response I can remember hearing at any time. My friend Bill Legall of MillerSound put them together and I believe he still has them. They were mated to a Cambridge preamp and CD player at the time I heard them. :)
A few from the bag of tricks...
1) Musical Fidelity A1...20w hotter than he!! (runs class A) but schweeet! $200 to $300 used.
2) Most old Spendors, esp. BC1 (400-600bux) SP1 (around 500bux) Can't play real loud but tonally exquisite, nice.
3) Harmon Kardon Citation 1 preamp...most of the "vintage guys" don't like this. Good! More for me. In the meantime, a very good, well built preamp w/phono (of course) for $400.
4) Rega RB300 arm...competitive and available used for $300 or so.
5) Dyna ST 70 you know good ol' reliable a little pricier than it was but still reasonable at $350-$450 30 w tubes.
6) Original Pro-Ac tablettes I know NO BASS but nice mids. small take'em with you size for around $400.
7) Old Scott/Fisher tube integrateds. If you gotta keep it REAL cheep, haunt 2nd hand and flea markets for these. The Salvation Army price is $20 to $50 bux with some persistance. Not bad sound.
8) Cheap wire (entry AQ, etc). No flames, please! I know wire can make a difference, but if funds are low, economize here till you can afford better.
9) Older Creek amps. Not quite as good as Musical Fidelity A1 (IMHO) but easier to find and good in their own right.
10) Old LP12, pre-valhalla/nirvana style go for around $500 plus or minus. Still a nice TT.
11) Cheep CD player (see Cheap Wire...)

Damn, I forgot the Spica's!!!! I was at a local dealer last week, he had a pair of primo Angelus speakers he'd let go for $300. God knows I tried to figure out somewhere in the house to use'em, no luck.
Jeff, You don't have a system in the bathroom last time you listed them all. The garage system was the last one right? You have five or six now counting the office?
Sugarbrie, are you suggesting that Jeff might have room in his bathroom for the Spicas ?

A pair of Spica Angelus in the bathroom system ... man that would be the ultimate guy-audio bathroom. Perhaps you could mount the TP roll holder on the front of one of the Spica cabinets just to further enhance their visual appeal !
(Not bashing Spica ... I own a pair, but man are they ugly !) Sorry I got off-thread, but I just have this mental picture of the spicas in my bathroom !
plato, this is funny - i presently am the happy owner of an o-l rb250 & a modified di/o, & i used to use a z-man for cd, but that went away when i got a tubed preamp. :>)

gotta disagree about the subs, tho - vmps has true world-class subs at relatively give-away prices, imo.

other bargains, imo:

marchand x-overs; any melos used amps/preamps; used onix bwd1 tuner w/upgrade power-supply; used revox b261 & b760 tuners; used oracle turntables.

doug s.

I have had one for almost 15 years now that I have used 3 hours a day & it's still going strong.
A NAD 3300 PE integrated amplifier - I've had mine since 1986 or 87 and it still performs great, at least four hours a day, almost every day. It's sound is limited only by what is connected to it.
Dynaco ST70 amplifier(Some of the Scotts too) that float through here for $200-450. True entry level hifi if you are smart enough to give them a little TLC. Reminds you how far the industry hasn't come in 40 years.
NAD C-370 Integrated Amp and Cambridge Audio D300 CDP. I got the NAD new for $530 and the CDP new on sale at audio advisor for $175. I love them bolth very much and would love to do an A/B test with some higher end gear Like arcam and Rotel.