Design an entire system for $800? ?

Help my cheap friend. He has nothing to start with. Cd only. Put yourself to the test. New equipment only(he is to busy to hunt the used market).Good luck
Have him audition a Yamaha Piano Black mini system. If the room is not too large and if he does not blast music it should fill the bill.

Another option (for higher volume playback) would be the integrated amp/CD player (all in one unit) by NAD and a pair of Polk Audio RT-25's, plus cheap $99 stands for the speakers. The NAD is often discounted online (new) and the Polk's go on sale @ the chain stores.

Too bad that he is not into seeking/searching bargains as I recently picked up a Bottlehead Foreplay/Paramours combo for $400 that sings with some of the Japanese single driver speakers that I sourced from the local thrifts (average $5/pr). With a nice discontinued Sony CD/SACD player and DIY Radio Shack magnet wire IC's/speaker cable such a system would come in @ $200 under budget (enough left over for a DIY Ikea Lack equipment rack and a discounted/new Monster HTS-2000 power conditioner).

Perhaps you could put together such a system for him?
Cambridge Audio A300 integrated amp ($250.), Cambridge Audio D300SE CD player ($300.), Sound Dynamics RTS-3 speakers ($198.), Audioquest sidewinder interconnect .5 mtr ($25), straightwire rhythm speaker cable ($48.) 8 ft pair. Total $821.00 all brand new from Audio Advisor, if you buy the demo's you will be under $800. I'm not pushing AA, I was just to lazy to shop around more. You might be able to do better if you look hard. This didn't look bad to me for the money but I'm sure alot of the other guys on this site could recommend even better. I would recommend you buy used, you would get much more bang for the buck IMHO. Tom G
I concur with buying used, especilly just starting. Honestly, you just can't kill some of this stuff, it's so well made. But in keeping with the original post:

Sound Dynamics RTS3's can regularly be had for $150 new, or demo - AA is a big seller of these, but they're widely available and you can buy new elsewhere for their demo price.
AA is a good place to shop though, given their 30-day guarantee.

Personally, I'd take a wide detour around the Cambridge stuff. The CD player has had lots of DOAs and quality problems reported on the net, and my personal experience was no excpetion - would rather suggest Marantz CD5000, which is the base unit that is modded into the Ah! Njoe Tjoeb tubed CD player ($599 or so MSRP). That unit costs only $219 NEW (3yr. warranty) from The Stereo Trading Outlet (, and reads CD-R and CD-RW. I also owned the Cambridge A300 integrated for just one day, and sold it immediately in favor of a $130 TEAC AG-780 stereo receiver ( The Cambridge integrated sounded harsh (and it was even broken-in), construction was not impressive either, even at the price. Lots of fans out there, though, I'm just not one of them. Not that the Teac is anything special, it was at least surprisingly well-built and had some power.

Audioquest Type 4 (4+) bulk speaker cable does well in cost-conscious systems, I recommend bulk purchase from ozenterprises at Ebay - buy on the Canadian dollar, and this guy is easy to work with. Radio shack speaker terminations can be OK for very little $. I recommend using heat-shrink tubing and a heat gun though to dress the cable ends. If that's too much trouble, and probably is, sells pre-terminated Audioquest cables for a good price.

Good luck, I'm sure you'll have all sorts of suggestions and opinions to wade through in no time! I just went through setting up a couple systems for low cost like you mentioned - it takes a little more work, but can certainly be done with great results if you try hard enoguh!
Sony DVP-NS500v for $150.
Refurbished NAD C350 amp from Spearit Sound for $330.
Sound Dynamics speakers for $150 from Stereo Trading Post.
Entry level Monster cables from wherever.
So let me get this straight. He is too cheap to buy good equipment. He is too busy to look for a good deal in used stuff. So he doesn't have the time or money to spend with his audio gear. Why does he want a stereo? Have him buy a Bose Wave Radio/CD with a remote. This way all his friends will think he has the ultimate(Bose), and he gets out cheap, and he won't be spending any time listening to it anyway. And with the remote, he won't even have to look at it, as that would probably take up too much of his time.
I think TWL offers a great solution. Even the guy who started the thread is passing the buck to us to help his cheap friend. I love it.

Another viable solution might be to purchase broken equipment that looks impressive to provide the illusion of a good system. You know, big beautiful speakers with burned out drivers, and electronics that light up but don't work properly could be bought for pennies on the dollar. Heck, he could save a lot on interconnects and speaker cables... Set up would be a snap because he wouldn't actually need to connect it together. The equipment could be placed about the room wherever it looks the best.

Then he could gaze upon the gear proudly while humming his favorite tunes to himself. If he is very clever, he could then imagine that the system sounds as good as it looks. :)
Twl, you could have saved us all this time if you'd just posted earlier. I hear that plastic clips softly, and produces mainly even-order harmonics. And the slate-blue color option is currently "in", fits nicely into period homes, etc. The classic white and piano black fit well in a modern urban setting.

I love it. Seriously, cheap + quick is a hard order to fill in hi-end, so I hope all the help you provide isn't dismissed quickly and cheaply as well. I've been there before.
Acoustic Energy Aegis One speakers (or whatever the latest gen of this speaker is called), inexpensive wooden speaker stands (like Sanus, you can find them by doing a Yahoo shopping search), 12 gauge speaker cable from Hoem Depot or Radio Shack, or any electronics store. And, drive the speakers with a combo minisystem like the Yamaha mentioned above by DK, or my favorite, the TEAC Ref 100 or Costco equivalent (store the little speakers that come with the minisystem in case he wants to give the system away later). $600-800.

I have hooked up the little TEAC to an old pair of Monitor Audio MD300's in my father-in-law's house, and it's very enjoyable. Depth, width, nice imaging - just lacks a little detail, which isnt always bad.

Nothing unreasonable about your cheap friend's request.
First you start with a Dynaco pat4 preamp , a dynaco st70 power amp, a pair of large Advents for speakers , a Dual 1219 Turntable some lamp cord for speaker wire , Oh my God what a flashback
The key for someone like this is to keep the electronics costs to a minimum. You can sometimes buy a 2-channel receiver and a CD player made by a company you've actually heard of from a place like J&R for well under $300. That leaves you $500+ for speakers, with plenty of choices from the likes of Paradigm, PSB, B&W, etc. (Speakers are personal and room-dependent, so I wouldn't begin to recommend them, but these the manufacturers are well thought of, so they're a good place to start.)

And I think a few posters here owe you an apology.
I second the Acoustic Energy EVO 1's. Great line, great value. Just used EVO 3's in a system for someone else.
I posted this not to pass the buck but to make sure I was giving good advice in this price range. I try with any person who will lend an ear, to get them interested in high end. I do this for several reasons. To help my local dealer, insure there is a market for quality stuff, and to hopefully see them one day looking to up grade(helping the used market). Outside of hanging out in the local salon I have never meet an audiophile in my daily life. And try to tell someone with my meager income that $2000 dollars for an amp is a bargain,is meet with some odd remarks at best. High end is a learning process. You can't really tell someone what timber, soundstage, or imaging is. It is like describing color to the blind. As for him to search the used market having never heard quality equipment would be like telling someone who has drivin nothing but a bicycle to shop for a used car. Thank you to everyone, hopefully one day I can turn one person into a true audiophile and help our numbers grow. Louis
Follow - up Thats what I spent for my first audio system see above it was nearly 30 years ago and it seemed like a kings ransom I was so proud. Let us remember its the music not the hardware that makes this hobby what it is, so if you listen on a table radio, a walkman , or a full blown state of the art system enjoy the performance, as blasphemous as it sounds spend $400 on a system and take the other $400 and spend it on some live music performances
It may seem odd but I dont ever remember reflecting as much about a recording I heard as I did about a live performance I heard . The live performances are what gives us the baseline we use to judge everything else, just a thought.
goto Teac Ref 300 receiver for $299 or TEA AGH500 Ref 500 receiver $369.
Acoustic Energy Aegis EVO 1 $300 or the older Aegis 1 $200.
B&W DM601 series 3 $450 (ask for 10% discount)
B&W DM303 for $350 or so
Monitor Audio Bronze 1 $299
Souind Dynamics RTS-3 $250
Well Seajungle:

If I were stranded on an island, and I didn't have nothing but $2,000.00 to try to live on until I had other means of income, and if I wanted to build me a stereo system on the cheap, here's how I would go about it.

Speaker System: Sound Dynamics RTS-3 -- $200.00 (Pair).

Integrated Amplifier: NAD C350 -- $450.00 (New) or $250.00 to $300.00 (Used..... depending on whether it is in mint condition or not).

CD Player: Sony DVP-NS500V -- $150.00 (your friend should be able to get this one at this closeout price at your local Best Buy or Circuit City)(with this player, he will be able to have a DVD Player, a CD Player, and an SACD Player all in one player)(he can listen to his existing CD collection, look at a movie every once in a while (provided he hook up a TV), and try out an ocassional SACD every once in a while....... originally retailed for $300.00 when it was brand new).

Cables: Audioquest, Cardas, Monster Cable, or MIT (and in either case, the cables I would get from these manufacturers would be the entry-level models in their lines..... should be no more than $100.00 tops).

Power Conditioner: A Radio Shack model would be fine for this system. Shouldn't cost no more than $50.00 tops.

This would be the system I would put together right now if I either had no desire to shoot for the "state-of-the-art", or if I wanted a stereo right now, but did not have the money to otherwise put together a good one (not to say the one I've listed above isn't good...... so no pun was intended).

System Price -- $850.00 to $1,000.00 (depending on whether or not you buy some items used, and whether or not your friend cares about using quality cables or power conditioning).

Good Luck.......

This one is right in my wheelhouse. Tsugury and MWilson are both correct. The Cambridge CD player has uneven QC (I had to try three to get one that would open and close and spin, etc. Kind of makes you wonder about ISO9002) But it was worth it. The player sounds really good for the price.

For an amp, I would use an entry level 50-80 WPC power amp with level controls, e.g. the Audiosource AMP 2, about $300 new. Short signal path and great upgrade possibilities. I ran a CD direct into a Parasound HCA-500 for years and it sounded WAY good for the money. You can buy that amp for $100 here or on eBay.

For speakers, there are obviously many, many options. PSB Image 1B would work. Or, if you went with the Sony DVP-NS500V that others are recommending and the used Parasound, you could get the little Triangles. Sweet.

For inexpensive interconnects, I have found the Kimber PBJ's most satisfactory (about $70) and the 14 or 16(?) gauge Monster Cable is OK for speaker wire in a short run. Enjoy and don't be discouraged by the negative postings. You can get a pleasant sounding, reasonably balanced, system for less than a grand.