Friend needs advice for $8,000 system

My friend is starting out from scratch with an $8,000 budget. He listens to all sorts, but mainly indie rock. He's keen on the Magnepan .7 speakers and lives in a small apartment, so listening room about 4x3 metres. Don't worry about cables. We just need a power amp, a turntable, a cartridge, a phono stage, NOS tubes, and a DAC.

How do we achieve:

Truthful tonality/timbre

Truthful harmonics

Liquid sound



Soundstage Coherence

All for $8,000 new.


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Sorry I should have mentioned the Magnepans are non-negotiable, so a $5,000 budget for everything else. Cheers!
you want tubes, yet you are starting with inefficient speakers, only 86db/1w/m.

small room, won't need/allow much volume, however, the speakers are bass limited, and the bass it can do needs power, soooo you are starting out needing to spend too much of what is left on power, or, regret it later.

 Or, add a self powered sub, now or soon, and wire in a way that takes the bass demand away from the tube amp/mains.

I recommend a STEREO PAIR of directional subs, if you keep that in mind, and start out with one now, ok, just don't pick a non-directional one.

bass is directional, as pointed out by others here, the overtones add to the direction/location of bass instruments.

limited budget, limited start, don't try to get too much, get good stuff to start, add good stuff bit by bit.

"Sorry I should have mentioned the Magnepans are non-negotiable, so a $5,000 budget for everything else."

Magnepan .7 is ~$1,400 in US. Are they $3K where your friend lives?
I would go with a Parasound integrated it will give you everything for about $3K new.
I ran one with my Maggie 1.7i and the paring was musical magic. It has almost a tube like sound. That would leave about $2K for a t.t. and cartridge and there are lots of good choices in that price range.
I always buy gently used as you get lots more for your $$. If you go used on the amp you should have about 1K for a good sub.
Good luck.
The truth is he can buy a better system, by far, for $10k, instead of $8k...

..and he can buy a  better system by far, by spending $6k, not $8k.

Hope that helps clarify the realities of what happens when asking other people’s opinions.
Don’t worry about cables. We just need a power amp, a turntable, a cartridge, a phono stage, NOS tubes, and a DAC.

Right. Because, as we all know, cables don’t make any difference. Spend $8k, hook it up with freebie patch cords and rubber power plugs. Oh, and start tube rolling your DAC. This is your advice to your friend?

I have some advice for your friend: find a better friend.

Integrated amplifier: I'd go used tube integrated (McIntosh), but new I'd say Rogue Sphinx with built in phono (tubes, $1500).

Turntable/arm: Used is a much better value, but probably if new VPI Scout-level deck with VPI arm (about $2500)

DAC: Schiit, good inexpensive DAC like the Modi or further up the Schiit line (no more than $500).

Cartridge: Nagaoka MM (several at less than $500)

Cables: Cheap wire for speakers and scrounge up a few hundred more for basic interconnect cables to start.

Subwoofer: wait on this until out of the small apartment, but will be necessary eventually.  
By choosing Magnepans, your friend is greatly limiting his choice of amplifiers. 

How do we achieve:

Truthful tonality/timbre

Truthful harmonics

Liquid sound



Soundstage Coherence

Well for starters you don't do it with freebie patch cords and rubber power cords. No amount of NOS tube rolling in your DAC will get you there. You ask a question, don't go around removing posts just because your special snowflake sensitivity is triggered by the truth. That only makes you look weak, in addition to misinformed.
Magnepan .7...... 5k left? Ok Here Ya go.

Odyssey Stratos 1350.00 (made to pair with Maggies & Klaus will bias for .7 )
Schiit Freya Plus Pre 899.00 w Mani 129.00
Chord Qutest DAC 1695.00
Rega Planar One 475.00

Subtotal: 4548.00 Then try some different cartridges.

Those Maggies will sound best behind the tube pre and with an amp that delivers the current...not watts. I would love to hear this in a small room.
Also I run 1.7s Enjoy :)

I would explore the market for a good integrated amplifier in the $2000-$2500 range, possibly with phonostage, and of the remaining  $2500-$3000 dollars I would allocate more to the vinyl side than to the DAC if vinyl was of equal importance.

What sources are to be used with the DAC?

I'd highly recommend a Hegel H190 integrated amp to go with the Maggies.  Fantastic sound, all the power you'll need.  If you need confirmation, go to Audio Excellence in Canada for youtube videos and see what they say re: Hegel amps and Maggies.
Try to find a knowledgeable, local, audio person that will take the time to understand his goals and get him on a reasonable path. 

Time spent upfront listening to different equipment (in home if possible) may reveal his preferences and narrow his choices. 

Also, buying preowned gear from a reputable source can stretch a budget considerably- or help him walk away with money in his pocket.

Remember it’s just a stereo, don’t take a lot of abuse over it. Enjoy the ride, nobody gets out of here alive.

Maggie’s NEED current, a small tube amp will sound good
, but will not play the Maggie’s to their potential.

 There is a ton of wicked class A/AB amps that would drive the Maggie’s  very well.

maybe on a budget you could start at a medium level amp like those Tennessee emotiva amps, for the money they sound good, and have a high output, but with Maggie’s u won’t get the tweeter hiss, as there are none,   

 Lots of great used amps, the search is the fun part.

I am certainly still an audiophile neophyte. I have a very modest system compared to most on here. I recently moved to an integrated hybrid tube amp. The Rogue Audio Sphinx 2. All I can say is "wow". I feel like I have not been listening to music the same way before. It only runs about $1400 new and for that price is impressive. I think that could give you lots of room for speakers, dac, ect.
You could achieve goals if you ace the Maggie’s.
Clearaudio Concept, Luxman 550AXII,
Paradigm 75Fs.
Cant do it with Magnepan at any price.
You could also do Concept, Hana EH, Satisfy Black, Cronus Magnum III, 75fs.
utterlydestroy the Maggie’s!
I love hearing Schiit described as good. I remember that level of inexperience. It was painful. It was really expensive as I kept having to switch stuff out every three months!
OMG! Someone recommended subs. Subs have no place in a good music system until you are way beyond $10k. Much better to have speakers with real bass (no Maggie’s or electrostatics). Subs are not for music, but for its foundation, the hall.
I’m also thrilled when people add tube noise to a DAC, countering its one advantage over analog.
People seem to think any engineer can take off the shelf parts and compete with decades of experience. It is aldehyde the chef, not the ingredients that make magic in audio.
@phcollie recommended a very competent system. The odyssey integrated, while all SS would save you some coin and allow a low end tube phono stage. Ignore the ego driven personal attacks. Music is rarely about that kind of thing, or should be.
Another possibility is a nice SP series ARC preamp with built in fet/tube phono. The last one I bought was $1250 with checkout by my favorite tech. add a stout but classic power amp - say a recapped Bryston, the Chord DAC and a Rega 3 table and you might get close to budget. 
Wow. Thanks for the help all.

tomic601, goheelz and phcollie, that's pretty much what I'm thinking, a mixture of all your recommendations. Thanks!
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A friend of mine just helped me get set up for about $5k with the .7s, though I went for a SACD player and not a turntable (plus additional for upgraded power cables, interconnects, etc.):

Maggies - $1,500
Used BGW 500D amp from eBay (prev. owned by a church!) - $250
Custom built QA-112-Mk3 preamp from Space-Tech Laboratory - $850
Bluesound Vault 2i streamer/CD ripper with 2TB drive - $1,300
Used McCormack UDP-1 Deluxe SACD player (one owner) - $650

Either way, the Maggies will make him really happy, as long as he feeds them well! :)
Since when do .7's cost 3 grand?  You better tell your pal that Maggie's are a bitch to drive and that he's going to need need high current amplification.  Most integrated's are going to get spanked trying to drive those unless they are in the expensive range.  Been there, done that.
Tubes and Magnapan’s with that budget is a no go IMO. You need power. You got to spend much more to get tubes that will put out the power needed for those.  This system would work great and fit in your friends budget.  You can find great reviews online of all these components.

1) PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell PreAmp/DAC $1600
2) PS Audio S300 Power Amp $1500
3) Lounge Audio LCR MKIII Phone Stage $350
4) Marantz TT15 S1 Turntable - $1500 - Comes with a fantastic MM cartridge.

And if you have any old components for trade PS audio has a great trade in program. Note, I don’t have any PS audio equipment but I have heard this system with maggies and it sounds great.
Why focus only on new?  There are many hobbyists who trade gear weekly or monthly.  Buy something gently used, and you can stretch the $8k budget to $10 or $12k worth of gear.
My limited input concerns Schiit and Rogue . I’ve had 3 Schiit DAC’s , currently the Yiggy . Get at least the R2R models . The Rogue Sphinx and the RP1 are greatly improved with a pair of nos Telefunkens and an entry level power cord. I’ve also had good results pairing Anti-Cables with Rogue gear . They are affordable and break in fairly quick . This is all from my living room . Also beware of trying to put big SS power behind a tube preamp . With an entry level tube pre, you might get more noise than you want . However, I’ve heard good things about the Schiit pre’s . My friend is happy with his new McIntosh hybrid integrated. He’s dumping his Chronus Magnum in his office and his Hera, M-180 combo in his main room . He went Bryston on the main system . His comment about the McIntosh was how much more tube like it was compared to his Chronus sounding dry . Happy Hunting.  
I know he is set on Magnepans, but I would beg him to reconsider if his music is any type with the word "Rock" in it. If he likes cranking it up, then he will be sorely disappointed. The Magnepans are so inefficient, that a reasonably priced tube amp just won't get to any level that I would call loud.

I know this, because it happened to me. I bought my MAC6700 used with no speakers in mind, and after several weeks auditioning speakers, ended up buying a new set of .7's - auditioned on a Rouge Sphinx which sounded incredible. I just didn't realize I was listening to them at the shop with the Sphnix at 3/4 volume. When I got them home, by the time I got the volume up, the McIntosh was hot to the touch after only 15 minutes, and it still was just touching "Loud". I ended up returning them and buying some Klipsch RF7-III's, and I have zero regrets.

I love the Magnepan sound, but I would look for an amp to go with them that brags about "High Current" or something similar in their specs. I was looking hard at Bel Canto Ref1000m's used (make sure you get the M version) or the new Ref600's (27 amp peak output current each) but I decided to keep the McIntosh and get a better matched speaker.

Just a thought to pass on to him.

I agree with your friend on the Maggies.  I have three pairs and they are great high performance bargains.  But as others above have stated, they require a lot of power to sound their best. He should be looking for an integrated amp of at least 100 watts per channel. Anything less and he won’t realize the Maggies’ full potential. 
In the initial post, no mention of room acoustic treatments. 

Big mistake.