First Stereo System Help

Hi all,

This Christmas I received a Pro-ject Debut Carbon but will be building the rest of the system myself. This is my first stereo system so my knowledge is pretty limited and I'm looking for advice on speakers and an amp. Some (hopefully) helpful information and some of my thoughts.

1. Listening area will be an apartment living room, maybe ~350-400 sqft, don't need huge volume.

2. Hoping to spend ~$1000, fine with buying used.

3. I know I need a phono stage, and from what I've read the Rega Fono Mini is one of the best budget phono stages for MM cartridges and will outclass phono stages in integrated amps significantly. This has made me shy away from something like a Marantz PM6004 and lean towards a separate phono stage. Is this true?

Thanks in advance for your help.
Hi, welcome to the forum. If you have $1K to spend on an integrated, speakers, and phono then my advice would be to get an integrated with a phono built in so that you can put more funds towards your speakers. There are a lot of different directions that you could go so it would be helpful if you might tell us about the type of music you like and if you have heard systems that you like. Do you like a warm sound or a more detailed type sound?

You will be better to pick the speakers that you like and then get an integrated that you know can work well with them. On the integrated side NAD are always popular as well as Marantz. Buying used will definitely help stretch the dollar a long ways.
Thanks for the response,

I listen to pretty much everything other than country, though I imagine my vinyl collection will end up being rock/blues/indie heavy.

Unfortunately I haven't demo'd any systems yet, I'm a true novice to analog audio :). I love the sound of my Beyerdynamic DT-770s (80 ohms) with a PA2V2 amp but that's about all I can tell you as far as sound preferences go.

There are a few audio stores around me but I just worry that the deals I could find online are significantly better than those in-store and I'd end up getting less bang for my buck. That being said, I could demo in-store gear so perhaps it's worth it.
One approach to get a big bang for the buck is to go with active speakers -- amps and speakers combined.
Prip, it would be worth spending time at those audio stores to get a feel for the different styles of speakers and amps. Be upfront about your budget and objectives and see how they might be able to help you out.
If you're really set on the Rega fono mini, i'd just go ahead and buy a Rega Brio 3. I saw a website which has a new silver one for a very attractive price. (But please note no headphone jack on the Rega. IMO, you'd get more bang for buck buying an headphone amp since you like headphone listening.) There was a thread not long posted here on AgoN on Int. amps. As far as speakers, do you want bookshelf or small floorstanders. Either would work well for you're space. Finally, try to work w/the brick and morter local dealer if they have something you're interested in. Be upfront w/them and see if they could cut you a deal and establish a relationship if possible. Finally, don't forget cabling. You don't need anything too expensive. Good Luck!
I don't know if it's still available but, LP has listed on their website a new silver Brio 3 for $449. I saw another website which has them @ $499. You may want to check out.
Thanks for the responses guys.

@Kotta: Not set on the Rega Fono Mini, had just read that it was a better phono stage than I'd find in integrateds. And I'm looking for bookshelfs, no room for floor standers :(
Ty for the heads up on the Brio 3.

I emailed a local store to ask if they had gear in my price range and the rep suggested a Music Hall A15.2 for $550 and the Music Hall Marimba's for $349. I think I'll hit the store sometime this week to demo them. The A15.2 was a Stereophile recommended comp last year and the Marimba's seem to have good reviews.
Hey, Prip!

You mentioned that you don't have room for floorstanding speakers (they usually have a similar footprint as a speaker stand) so I'm wondering if you are actually going to place the speakers on a bookshelf. If so, that would change the recommendations for speakers.

Either way, if you go with a ported design, I'd go with a front firing port because speakers with rear firing ports need to be pulled out from the wall a few feet.

I also agree that you might want to look at a pair of powered monitors. Less clutter, less cables (which cost $).

I'd look at a used pair of dynaudio's or adam's. It's my oppinion that you'd be better off building relationships with people here on Audiogon to help with input, rather than a brick and morter store. I have not met anyone as knowledable or passionate about true hi-fi in a brick and morter store as you'll find here on Audiogon.

Buy used at a good price (do your research) and you shouldn't lose any $ if you decide to sell and try something else.
Hi limo,

The plan for the speakers now is to have them on a credenza (didn't know what this word meant a week ago lol). They'll probably have a foot of room behind them at most. Thank you for the tip on front firing ports, I probably would've overlooked this.
Just be aware the 15.2 is the previous model. The new model which just came out is the 15.3. If I were to consider the 15.2 it would have to be around $400 new. You may be able to get a "demo" 15.3 for $420 here on AgoN. Let us know what you think of the two MH products you may audition. As far as the Rega fono pre-amp, if it's the same as what comes in the Brio, it should be a good sounding pre-amp. Good listening!
If you like Music Hall, Audiogon member Underwoodwally (Underwood Hi Fi) is a great resource, call Walter.

I have no affiliation other than having purchased several pieces from Walter over the years.
Get the Yamaha A-S500 integrated, it is terrific for the money and has a very decent phono input. Spend the rest on monitors like the Focal 807 now on sale at Musicdirect.
Was able to demo some Totem Dreamcatchers when I went to demo the Music Hall items and liked them quite a bit. Store was selling them for $795. Went home and found a pair on eBay, just won them for $381 + shipping. Just need an amp now :)
Do you know the resistance (ohms) and sensitivity of the Totems? Will be helpful in the selection of an amp. Could take speakers to the Music Hall dealer and listen. Should be able to buy the 15.2 at discount.
4 ohm impedance and 87.5 dB/W/m sensitivity.

I was able to listen to them through the 15.3 (turned out not to be a 15.2) and a Rega RP3 (didn't have the Debut Carbon). Might try to find a 15.2 or 15.3 online since I know I liked the sound, but it's tough since I don't know what I'm missing. Especially when it comes to a separate phono stage.
I own some Dreamcathchers, nice speakers though a bit dtnamically limited as one would expct.
They do need some power, I'd be looking for an Odyssey Kartoga.
Pioneer SP-BS22-LR speakers cost a pittance, are well received, and would leave a fair amount to pick up a nice integrated amp with phono input. That's what I'd consider.

Jolida fx10 tube integrated + outboard Bellari phono pre-amp would be another nice ticket.

Add a powered sub to finish things off to boot if you can and you are in a very good place.
Given your speakers specs, I would consider a integrated that provides a 4ohm rating of ~150wpc. Though you don't listen at high levels, your speakers will be better controlled with the extra power reserves. If possible, take your speakers to dealers and listen to different amps.

Mapman is correct on the Pioneers. Haven't heard a better speaker under $250 retail. Their retail is $129.
I'd second Mapman.
Thanks for the advice, guys. I'm looking at this Mira 3:

Looks like it's 91wpc at 4ohms. I'm looking to spend around $500, do you think I could find better?