Cult Classics for Young Future Audiophile

My young nephew turns 10 this week and I would like to buy him his first stereo, assembled from used classics that I will clean, restore etc and wrap up in big boxes.

He is taking piano and saxophone lessons, is generally very creative and artistic and has expressed an interest in Charlie Parker. As his Uncle, I am encouraging him to listen to music as much as possible while he is "working" on his artistic interests.

Can anyone help with ideas for assembling a high end, classic system that will be fairly reliable, inexpensive and whet his appetite for music and high end audio?

At first I thought a kid his age might enjoy some of the big classic receivers or amps from the 70's with multiple LEDs , VU meters, tone controls etc. -- remember Yamaha "Natural Sound" -- but he is very smart and technical and would also get the mimimalistic, straight wire with gain, audiophile approach.

Apt Holman amp and preamp? Classic Hafler amp and preamp? A pair of used Maggie SMGs? With one of the less expensive, discontinued but still new in box SACD players?

I would like to keep this well under $1000.00 -- closer to $500 would be ideal.
Very interesting post! For the amp/preamp, how about an NAD 3020? I really like the idea of the Maggies for the speakers if they work with the NAD, otherwise maybe some Spica TC-50s, Vandersteen 1s or old ARs? For the digital source, while I'd like SACD to stick, I'm not sure we can put the format into the "classic" category yet, but the problem is that the early CD players were awful, nothing you could truly call classic there. Maybe one of the early Rotel units (855?) that were among the first listenable and affordable CD players? Or, if you still have some vinyl for him, an AR turntable?
I have assembled systems for my three kids with the same goal in mind:

Proton 930 Receiver ($120)
Technics SL-PD887 5-Disc CDP ($80)
Teac V770 Tape Deck ($90)
B&W DM303 speakers ($200)

Parasound R/HD 300 II receiver ($100)
Parasound D/HX-550 tape deck ($69)
B&W DM303 speakers ($200)
Kyocera DA 310cx CD Player ($80)

NAD513 3-disc CD player ($100)
Carver HR752 receiver ($200)
Nakamichi 480 Tape Deck ($100)
B&W DM302 speakers ($200)

or my office system:

Proton 930 Receiver ($150)
Micromega Leader CD player ($200)
NHT SuperOne speakers ($180)
B&K ST-140 amplifier ($200-$300)
Forte or Threshold preamp ($250-$450)
Marantz CDP-5000 ($239) or a used NAD single-disc ($100)

Speakers? Wouldn't buy anything old except for horns.
Would stay newer here. Acoustic Energy - monitors AE1
($150-$200), floorstanders AE3 ($350-$500).
A little more expensive, but maybe worth it:

Prices are for used gear:

Paradigm Monitor 5's ~ $350(?) (around 500 new - no ads)
Creek 4330 ~ $400 (one for sale here)
Nad CDP ~ $150 (couple of ads around this price)
Hey MWilson and Aboldor, have you guys heard these systems you mentioned. Ive seen a lot of this stuff available on A'gon and am also interested i setting something like this up. What are their sound characteristics? I think this info would help us both.
Yes, I can comment on most of my recommendations.

I own the ST-140 (black with gold handles model, 1989 - 105w, not the earlier 70w or later 105w with blue stripes). It has a truly classic and characteristic sound. Even with better amplifiers in other systems, I greatly enjoy listening to this amp, and do so often. It is very mellow, not harsh, and is "tubelike" in presentation. Wide soundstage, not forward and compressed. Laid back and very musical. Nothing like their newer amps, which now lean toward clinical and bright.

The Marantz CDP-5000 is a solidly-built unit that is the basis for the AH! Tjoeb line of modified tubed CD players from the Netherlands. It is a very solid player, with a sturdy platter, easy interface, and good (if small) remote. It sounds excellent by itself, and with a good cheap DAC, is a solid transport that you can be happy with for a long time.

The Acoustic Energy AEgis series has been replaced by the AEgis EVO series, hence the great pricing. As far as I can tell (I own the Aegis EVO 3 floorstanders, and have purchased and set up the older Aegis 3s for a friend), the EVO series is a minor revision, with cosmetic upgrades, perhaps a couple structural mods, and a woofer swap in the EVO 3. Their speakers are designed in UK, built in China, and actually have very good fit + finish for the price. The sound is excellent - very detailed + involving sound, and very fast.

The Threshold/Forte recommendation comes as a me-too on their reputation as classics, and their easy availability. I have not heard them.

All great ideas and thank you very much, everyone.

While it makes perfect sense to buy newer gear that sounds good and works well, I was hoping to indulge my audiophile ego and encourage the obsessive, purist enthusiast tendencies to see if he responds. Hence, my interest in Maggies, Apt Holman, Haflers, etc.

To give you an automotive analogy, if he were turning 16, I would rather give him a BMW 2002 tii, than a newer "hot hatch", even thought the latter would probably be more reliable and faster.

Correct me if I am wrong, but it just seems a lot more interest and stylish to me. Or do I completely misunderstand kids' thought processes? Maybe an MP-3 jukebox would make him happier?!?!? Or would it be "cool" to have thin planar speakers like his Uncle?

I will probably persist -- just in case he too, might one day have the sublime pleasure of worrying about the quality of his AC outlets etc......
CW - I would think planar's would fall into the category of "cool" though maybe not until a couple more years go by - my 12 year old son would be oblivious, my 15 year old daughter would be more appreciative. However, in either case an I-POD might make them just as happy.

Great idea though, hooking him young before he is ruined by MP-3's.
All of the suggestions above have considerable merit, so I'd like to take a slightly different approach to your post.

Based on my experiences introducing my son (now 34) into the audio hobby, I learned some things that may be useful for you to consider:
1. Kids tend to "crank up" the sound level, despite parental warnings not to abuse the audio system. Hence, you should get equipment that will withstand some abuse.
2. Given the previous statement, the corollary is that it makes sense to buy a higher powered amplifier, since clipping distortion is the fastest way to "fry" a speaker (my son did exactly this...).
3. Buy a reasonably priced power amp that has enough "juice" for the kind of music your kids will listen to. The Hafler DH-200 or DH-220 would be an excellent choice, if that's what you are inclined to get. The Hafler DH-110 preamp would make a good companion unit.
4. Buy speakers that offer good sound quality (to set some standards for the neophyte listener), but is still reasonably rugged, and will play to moderately loud volumes without needing huge amounts of amplifier. For this reason, I would NOT recommend planars or electrostatics for the "newbie".

It's a lot of fun to watch your kid(s) begin to listen to and enjoy properly reproduced music, and it gives the parent a chance to introduce their child to new music (maybe some classical, some blues, some jazz, etc.). I think it's great that you are doing this, and it should be a lot of fun.
Scott, good practical thinking! Add an original Adcom GFA 555 as a possible amp as well, my son has been using that since he was a teenager with the preamp portion of an NAD 7225 and loves it.
After I made my post above, I drove into town for lunch with a buddy, and we got to talking about audio systems for kids. My friend mentioned that he had recently purchased a Rotel RA-02 integrated amp for use in the recreation room, where the system will mainly be used by his pre-teen and early teen kids. He combined the RA-02 with a pair of Krix Equinox speakers, which are fairly efficient, and he said the system works very well.

This conversation made me do some further thinking about this thread, and I want to amend my comments above. Several points which seem pertinent are:
1. The system needs to address the listening habits of the prospective user, not the seasoned audiophile, so keep your kids needs in mind. Floorstander speakers may not be the best choice, even though I like the idea of something like Vandersteen 1's. A "bookshelf" speaker is likely to be more practical, and easier to drive since it will have less low frequency output.
2. One of the newer models of inexpensive integrated amps might be a good alternative to "classic" separates. It's simpler to use, easier to set up, and if it is combined with efficient speakers it can provide a good taste of good sound. The Rotel RA-02 has gotten very good reviews, it provides 40 wpc, and it is not very expensive. Audio Advisor also sells several other good integrated amps: the Cambridge A500 (65 wpc) for $400, or its smaller brother, the A300 (50 wpc) for $249.
3. An efficient bookshelf speaker (90 db or better) should provide adequate volume, assuming the system will be used in the youngster's bedroom. There are some good choices for lower-cost speakers that should fill the bill:
a. Krix Equinox speakers can be purchased used for $300-350;
b. Wharfedale Diamond 8.1 or 8.2's, which Audio Advisor sells for $200 and $300, respectively;
c. B&W 303's, which have gotten very good reviews, are fairly efficient, and sell for around $300.

Hope all of these posts give you some good food for thought.
Hey, when I was that age I had a little crystal radio with an earphone. The radio was shaped as a rocket and the tuner moved in and out of the nose. That was a neat way to listen to all those, now "vintage" 50's sounds on am radio.
Boy, then I graduated to a desktop GE clock radio and the parents console Magnavox "stereo". Now there's some vintage "audiophile" stuff! Regarding the Apt preamp, which I owned for 15+ years, it's a great piece with the "forbidden" tone controls, that were actually fun to play with. Soundstage was somewhat flat but otherwise a very neutral presentation. The reason I bring up the radio, is that I'm not sure your nephew wouldn't like to listen to the radio. Unless he has a big cd collection...Look at Cambridge Audio separates (which should keep him going through college) or an NAD reciever. Otherwise get the Apt preamp, amp and don't forget a tuner. Agree with the discussion on the speakers byn Sdcampbell.
how about an old Nakamichi Cassette deck or maybe even a phono stage?

My 10 year old has a Yamaha digital piano and lessons. Part of my deal with him was a sound system to play the piano through. He has a Reference Line 3000 passive preamp, NHT Pro M-00 and S-00 (satellites and sub) which are self-powered, a Mitsubishi DA-F10 tuner and a Pioneer PDR-609 CD recorder. I realize this runs over budget but the tuner (or something comparable) can be had for under $100 and I remember paying $200 for the passive pre some years ago. I bought the speakers and sub for $500 but they don't seem to be for sale used.The Pioneer CD recorder came from etronics for about $230. This is a rig a kid can love and it has interesting expansion potential. Good luck.
I admire your desire to plant a seed. This could be a gesture that boy never forgets. I can imagine him standing on stage at Carnegie telling this story. Maybe that image will expand the budget a little more.
I heard the monitor 5's with NAD components and for the money the Paradigm's are pretty tough to beat. They're nicely "voiced", with good/vg imaging and good detail. Their sensitivity (89/92dB) should make them a decent match for the 40W/ch of the Creek, which I think sounds better than a NAD – more musical, more… “vibrant”, if you will (maybe because it has more detail?). So I did not hear the Creek with the rest of the setup, but if I had to build a system with that budget those would be my first choices.