Getting Started

Hi, I'm totally new to this hobby. So new, in fact, I have no system at all. After lurking here for a while, I thought it best to visit my local audiophile store. I did that last week and alas, it was not a good experience. When the clerks stopped ignoring me, they were very disinterested in my newby-questions and I was pretty quickly pissed off at what I perceived to be their dismissive, knowledge-snob attitude. What is so unfortunate about this is I live in a rural area and that's the only shop within 40 miles of me. I'm wondering if I can lean on you guys to help me put together a sub $2K amp and speaker pairing. It sucks to not demo but I don't have much choice currently. In the future, when I can find a good store where I can actually demo some stuff, I can upgrade. Right now, I just want to get into the game! I want a couple of floor-standers for primarily music (they'll be hooked to the TV as well). My room is 13x22. Thanks in advance.
The great thing about Audiogon is buying used and minimizing potnetial downside. Your room is not too large, why not think about seom monitors (Pardigm S2, B&W 805, Totem's), Quad ESL 57's, or Magnepan MMG's. Amp will depend on which speaker you choose.

What type of music do you intend to listen to most of the time?
That sucks. I'm sorry to hear of your experience at the retail level. That kind of attitude gives the hobby a bad name, whether on the retail level or just person-to-person.

The tough part of your question is the clean slate - there are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of pairings that would fit the bill of providing a good investment in good sound. You ARE starting with some good advice (or instinct) in seeking the pairing of amp and speaker together as that is very important. You are going to get a wide variety of responses to this question, and can look up similar threads where that's proven out over and over. There's no right answer, and lots of different "flavors" as it were. A few things you might provide to hone down your possible responses is the type of music you prefer listening to, and at what volume. The room dimensions help (I'd try to put your system on the long wall, or perhaps asymmetrically in a corner if possible), indicating a moderate size listening space. I would assume that you are looking for an integrated amp (vs. separate preamp and amplifier) - you should correct this if I'm wrong. As a rule, and certainly based upon the kind of retail experience your local store is offering up, you'll get way more bang for the buck in buying used from a reliable source (someone with abundant good feedback) here on A'gon, or perhaps from some of the more friendly dealers who are willing to spend some time with a few emails or phone calls (on that front I'd recommend Walter Liederman who is Underwoodwally here - he is discriminating as to what he sells and seems to seek out some really nice starter components at good prices, as well as having good options throughout the range. No connection - only a few purchases and several happy friends who I've sent to him). There are certainly other good dealers who advertise here. Buying used can be a bit daunting as a newbie - if you have knowledgeable friends who might help it may take some concerns away. You can get some great deals buying used, but there is certainly some amount of risk involved. I've had tremendous luck over the years...really no real bad experiences to speak of buying or selling here.

Ultimately it will help a whole lot if you can get out and listen to some options with the music you enjoy, whether at friends or your obnoxious dealer. Get some sense of what kind of components you prefer.

I'll give you a few possible integrated amp + speaker combinations - as I said, there could be thousands:

Brand new:
Rega R5 (floorstanding speakers) + Rega Mira 3 - A bit over your range but good synergy, and good bang-for buck.

Klipsch Forte II's (old school looks - great versatile speaker for not a lot of $) or Soliloquy (no longer in business so no replacement drivers but they come very cheap for what they offer - worth the risk?) or Silverline floorstanders + Unison Unico (SE) amp or Manley Stingray or one of the PrimaLuna integrateds.

Which you actually choose to combine would be important - just some broad recommendations for now. You'll get lots more.
I know what you mean about the snobby attitudes at audio stores.They cry about business being so bad yet they still treat customers like crap.I don't get it.Keep in mind,all stores aren't like this.I also know what you mean about not having a store nearby,the closest store to me is almost 4 hours away.
You say you have a budget of around 2K for amp and speakers,what will you be using for a source?Personally,if I were just starting out,I would be looking at NAD equipment and PSB speakers.This is a no miss combination in my opinion(especially since you probably can't audition the equipment).These brands seem to work together well in just about any room.
For your size room I would recommend the following:NAD C355BEE Integrated Amp and PSB Image T65 speakers.If you need a CD player you can't beat the NAD C515BEE.Check out the authorized online sellers below.I think you will like their prices.Good luck.
Thank you! I am overwhelmed. I started this thread this afternoon and I was pretty dejected. I went out to eat and returned to see your responses so I'm very pleased you guys were willing to help. First of all, I primarily listen to classic rock music. I minor in classical, big bands, and jazz. I want to stick with some floorstanding speakers because I'm pretty certain I'm only going to live in my house for another year. When I move, the space is going to be bigger. It's a strange thing about the stereo store. I'm into photography as well and the same thing has gone on in camera stores for years. The guys who "get it" will always have time for the newby. Stupid. Anyway, enough of that. I will look further afield. Or when I move, I will make it my business to get aquainted with a top notch store. As for now, I'm okay with buying new or used here on Audiogon but I was thinking new. Jax2: I am looking for an integrated but not totally opposed to pre/power. Tpreaves: Thanks for those links! Since all of my research has been from the web or Stereophile mag, I am limited to what I've read good things about. I have definitely read good things about NAD and PSB. My source is my computer or blu ray player for now. I have a question about some specific components for you guys. First, the Onkyo A-9555 amp keeps popping up as a decent budget amp. Any thoughts about that? And Tpreaves, you mention the PSB Image T65. I see that speaker on the link you sent me but when I go to PSB's website, it isn't on there. Stereophile has a review of PSB Image T6 this month. It's a different speaker though because it retails for $1200 a pair. The T65 says $799 a pair. Again, thanks everyone.
Sorry to hear about another bad encounter at the local audio retailer. My advice is to never visit or buy one item from that particular retailer. They won't be around much longer, if what you said is true, and I would try to find a local, regular A.goner and try to strike up a correspondence, and take it from there. This site has a ton of people with knowledge if you ask the correct ones.
Thank you, Rod1957. I will continue to bother you guys while I search for another!
Badmoth,the T6 is the replacement for the T65.That's why the T65 is on sale now.This is one of the nice things about audio,when the new models come out the older ones go on sale!!I haven't heard the T6 but I'm pretty sure it is comparable to the T65(which I have heard and really like).I suggested new equipment because,as a first time buyer,you will have the peace of mind that a waranty will bring and you will not have to worry if the stuff is damaged.When you get a better handle on the ins and outs of audio and where you want to go with it,you can start upgrading.Buying used can be intimidating at first but as you gain more knowledge you will become more comfortable with it.At least that's how it was for me.Again,I wish you good luck in your endeavor.
Badmoth...the advice above is all very solid. I would add that you should take some time and just read some reviews of components in your price range and start using those reviews as tools to narrow down possible options. Here are some sites for you to visit:

Within the network of affiliated sites, there is a site dedicated to affordable audiophile products called Good Sound at which may be a very good place to start. Also, I would look at Stereophile's Recommended Component listings that come out in April and October of each year as well as the The Absolute Sounds Editor Choice Awards listings (most recent TAS issue) as a starting point from which to read about products in your price range.

I agree that in your budget it is best for you to start with an integrated amp. I don't think you can go wrong with an NAD integrated and PSB floor standers but as has been said many times above, there are many permutations that will get you there. When I first embarked on my audiophile journey some 4-5 years ago, I spent the first 3 months or so just reading everything I could. Not only does this help narrow your list down but it also helps you pick up the lingo, so that when you read product reviews you begin to understand how to interpret the language being used to describe a product's sonics to how you would experience it in the real world. I then spent a few months auditioning all kinds of products and out of four high-end audio shops in my area (I am certainly lucky to be able to live in an area with multiple options), I was able to establish a very good relationship with one of the shops and have been auditioning products in their great listening rooms ever since. I realize this is not always possible. In your case, you may want to take advantage of on-line retailers, many of whom have 30-day money-back guarantees to try out products in your home, and if you are not happy with them, you can always return them. The on-line retailers with flexibile return policies are:

Audio Advisor:
Music Direct:
Acoustic Sounds:
Jerry Raskins Needle Doctor:

Enjoy the research/auditioning process. Come back to Agon with specific questions on specific components and/or component combinations and good luck.
PS: apologize for the lengthy entry :-)
There is a dealer in my area that when I pulled in a luxury car
and I got the golden glove treatment.A couple months later I used a Taurus.They didn't recognize me,but seemed uninterested when I walked in the upper-end room.They blew the sale.I bought the same out of town.They were judging me by the cars price.They also did the same to others I know. Imagine that!Thankfully there is Audiogon!
Hey Hifi,were you there to buy a $2000.00 power cable? Tell the truth !!!!!!!!
No way!!!!!
I have to get a playstation first!
Welcome! There’s tons of great info here already and if you get familiar with the Audiogon search engine on the title page, you will be able to unearth immense pages of info on all sorts of aspects of the audio hobby.

You might even find stuff and people in or near your own area by using the zip code search function!

Checking out Virtual systems pages for ex will reveal already done setups that work well … the caveat here is always this… it’s your ears, and your bucks which will ultimately decide. Not all ears are alike, nor are personalities listening preffs, musical preffs, and so forth.

It’s too bad your initial steps into your local shop were as stated. It’s not too uncommon I’m sorry to say. That idiotic stance of some high end joints is always a poor face for the industry at large and to those folks who are interested in getting into it on what ever level. Must have been some youngsters in there who don’t know how to qualify prospective buyers, and probably have little info outside what they have for sale anyhow.

The same thing happens in my area too… after ttrying numerous times to buy and deal with them, I’ve given up and glad to say I was pointed here. Of the four places only one could get my business and he’s about 100 mi. round trip.

I’ve gotten some interest lately about the Peach Tree line of components. They make a few items, namely two of their integrated amps with built in DACs seem like they would offer you fine audio, and lots of flexibility. The top int pushes out 80wpc @ 6 ohms. Has a DAC built into it, and comes with a remote. You can add an amp later on or use another preamp later on with it. It’s small and the accounts here and online are quite positive. It ahs a good headphone side as well, and it goes new for $1200.

Being new too, it’ll take some weeks to come fully alive as well. Just about every gizmo you can think of in this past time will need lots of watts usage to breakin completely, if bought brand new! Everything! Cables, amps, speakers, conditioners, etc. if it plugs into the wall or to another device, and it’s NEW it will need break in time to be at it’s best!

Speaker systems on the other hand aren’t something I’d say one will get the most value for if bought new. There’s car like depreciation and the countless hours of run in for them, so I’d suggest some thought be applied to getting a pair of more expensive ones for much less then retail if bought preowned.

Thereby adding to the budget and performance curve of your first system.

Simply ensure a couple things:
Orig packing
Seller has very good feedback
Speakers aren’t ancient or in poor condition.
Mate well with the amp in use.

In the under 100wpc category the important numbers are efficiency and impedance. In that sized room 89-92 db sensitive speakers, with 6-8 ohm nominal imp will let you play pretty loudly with 75 – 100 wpc.

There are tables too online which will serve you to peruse for sensitivity and listening distances. These will reveal just how much power on tap is needed to provide a certain SPL at your chair, from the speakers.

If indeed $2K is the bucket to draw from an $800 pair of squeaks should retail for anywhere from 1200 -2000 depending upon condition and age.

Impedance is the real deal when adding speakers to amps. Many posted numbers don’t always reflect the true impedance curve of the loudspeakers when in real world operating conditions. Mostly their numbers reflect info at precise given frequencies of usually 1K hertz… not 20, 30 or 50 where amps get tried. The other end is likewise, tweeters too require good power, but all will be well if there’s decent amounts of juice on tap. 75-150 wpc will drive a whole lot of speakers now on the market!.. to various levels of course. For that matter depending on listening levels, perhaps a good bit less.

80% of the music is made in the 1st 20 watts.

Units from PSB, Silverline, Totem, Canton, and some vintage units too, among others, all should do you well IF the matching process is adhered to with amp to speaker combo in mind.

Jacks2 gave some good ideas here already… the Virtual systems pages will shed more light… as will other discussion threads along those lines.
also check out the owner reviews from members here too.

Check ‘em out & Good luck.
Hi Bad, and welcome! Lot's of good advice above. If you are going to use a computer as a source, why not think about an integrated with a DAC (digital to analog converter)? This might improve your sound; Peachtree audio makes well regarded units that would be at your pricepoint (esp. demo or used), Bel Canto also makes such a unit, though it is dearer. If I were you, I'd think about calling Walter at Underwood HiFi; he handles Peachtree, Bel Canto, and many others, and often has good used/demo specials. I bet a beginner could do a lot worse than going to Walter and saying, "What's the best I can do for a 2k speaker-amp combo?" I'd suspect you'd come pretty close to, or do better than, the best you could do on the Gon, without a lot of time and luck. Certainly worth a call, I'd think. John
I agree with the Peachtree comments above. Very nice for the money especially for computer-based audio. Don't forget about the Peachtree Decco. It has 50 wpc but, depending on the speakers you select, that might be enough and at about half the price of the Nova would give you more flexibility elsewhere.
Again, I'm really thankful for all the responses. I'm really swimming in info here. Question about amps and power: That PSB Image T65 has to be a serious contender at $799. If I went with that speaker, would a 50wpc amp such as the Peachtree Decco or NAD C326BEE be sufficient? Or should I stick with something more stout (such as the C355BEE mentioned earlier)?
That PSB Image T65 has to be a serious contender at $799. If I went with that speaker, would a 50wpc amp such as the Peachtree Decco or NAD C326BEE be sufficient? Or should I stick with something more stout (such as the C355BEE mentioned earlier)?

The Peachtree stuff have a great DAC going for them (Sabre), but their amps are not the best, IMO. This from my own impressions at RMAF, as well as from a good Audiophile friend's impressions of the more powerful version in the Nova while trying to help another friend buy a modest system (he did not feel it was living up to its rated power nor doing very well overall). I would look elsewhere for an amp, especially if you are depending on it for classic rock. I would push for something with more cojones than those choices myself, the NAD being a better choice, though my experience is very limited with that amp. A used Portal Panache would be great if you don't mind the lack of a remote.


PT Nova amps not too good?

That's curious, though I don't doubt your aprasal. One review did say it wasn't the strongest point of the Nova or Decco, as Nu Force amps were used predominately for testing all the other aspects of the PT int (s)... which, BTW are considerable for an int, IMO.

I figured though in terms of bang for the buck, the overall feature story outweighed the usual suspects in the int. category. HP amp, DAC, iPod dock (with lower powered Decco), sub out, pre & amp flexibility... etc.

I have been considering something along this line as another option for myself, due in part to the notes on the HP side of the Decco & Nova, and for another rooms outfit... but I'd wait for a used model personally as I certainly have no need for one immediately.

Adding to that, many here are predisposed to adding onto ints. and receivers shortly after getting them, I didn't see a decent, though not incredible, onboard amp as a big issue... New $1000 ints all have shortcomings, somewhere.

Good point, though.

If you haven't already, read John Mark's Fifth Element columns in Stereophile over the last 18 months or so on his search for a music lover's system in or around the price range you are considering (easy to find on the website). I can vouch for his advice, because he helped me buy my first system when I was a newbie five years back, and all his recommendations were on the mark,

Good luck,

I will do so. Thanks!
I figured though in terms of bang for the buck, the overall feature story outweighed the usual suspects in the int. category. HP amp, DAC, iPod dock (with lower powered Decco), sub out, pre & amp flexibility... etc.

Since the OP is looking for an amp + speaker combo, I would advise to focus on getting the best for the $ rather than trying to add more bells and whistles to the request. Upgrade the front end at a later date - the speaker>amp interface is best addressed together.

My impressions of the Decco at one of the RMAF shows were not that it was a bad piece, per se, just that as an amp it lacked some punch and dynamics, and was certainly not the last word in imaging or low level definition and control. Overall it sounded pretty nice with Era Design speakers, but wouldn't be my choice of an amp - you could do much better with a separate amp + DAC IMO. OTOH the DAC was very resolving and musical without any typical digital gremlins. My (audiophile) friend assisted his friend in buying a system right around the price range the OP is asking about. They went around and listened to a handful of options including the Nova, which I think the guy actually bought in spite of my friends advice that he could do better buying a separate amp. I think the Peachtrees actually offers a digital output or a pre out if I'm not mistaken - I have another friend who told me he was very impressed hearing the Maggie 1.7's at a recent show (Music Matters - Definitive, Seattle). He reported they were being pushed by a Decco, which I found astonishing and asked him if he was sure about that. He clarified that the Decco was outputting the signal to, I think a Rotel amp at 100wpc. So obviously they liked the Decco's DAC but not the amp for pushing the Maggies (understandable given the demands of those speakers). For a limited budget, and to save on shelf-space, it's a pretty good deal. But none of that was a concern of the OP so I'd suggest optimizing the amp investment myself. Certainly if he's using a computer or a blu-ray player as a front end (BDP-93SE notwithstanding), there's probably a whole lot of room for improvement in that front end too, which would be a pretty good argument for a Peachtree - but I'd bet long term satisfaction might be lacking in the amp section. Blindjim - If you're thinking of using one for a HP amp; I can't say I have direct experience with the HP section of the PT offerings, but I will guess, based on experience, that you can do a whole lot better with a good dedicated HP amp. "Compromise" is definitely not a word I like to use often in my vocabulary, as you might have guessed.



I've little exp with ints per se, and always went the bang for the buck reciever way, and added amps and so forth as time passed, then trickled down the appliance to some other room or person.

Also the overall cost or budget indicates that 'C' word too and felt the orig post was for a more temporal solution, or about a year. hence my idea on the old standby BFB theory I'm predisposed to begin with for myself as a rule.

Well with which ever, lot o luck and may it all be good.

You can put together a great sounding amp/speaker combo purchased new for $2k as a place to start. I would look around a little bit and then just take the plunge. As you listen, learn and look around, you will get a better idea what your tastes are and what systems and gear people are listening to that is most likely to suite your taste. Then you can upgrade later if you get the itch.

I agree with much of the advice above - for classic rock you typically don't need the absolute lowest lows, but you do need adequate scale and volume without adding distortion. This does tend to favor larger floor standers and enough amplifier current to handle dynamic swings. I always say the hardest music to recreate convincingly at home is hard rock or a full orchestra.

No matter what you do, leave some money for decent interconnects and speaker cables. Reasonable wires are available from Internet dealers like Blue Jeans Cable, Signal Cable, while Auvio brand interconnects available from Radio Shack are actually quite good and Supra speaker cables from Sjofn HiFi also get rave reviews and are really cheap.

Here are my suggestions for amp speaker combinations:

-The all Rega system as suggested above with the RS5 speakers - perhaps look for used if over budget new

-NAD/PSB Image T65 as suggested (go with the bigger C-355BEE amp, or I would even suggest the C-375BEE which is 150W per channel and destined to become an audio classic)

-Cambridge Audio Azur 650A integrated amplifier and Paradigm Monitor Series v.6 model 9 floor standing speakers. This combination is guaranteed to sound at least as good as the NAD/PSB combination. The new Paradigm Monitor Series v.6 speakers are a revelation in this price range.

-Here is a somewhat unconventional set up, but I heard this combination recently and it sounded really good. NAD C-326BEE or Cambridge 550A integrated amplifiers and Vandersteen Model 1c speakers. This will provide a different and more open sound than the PSB or Paradigms, not quite as brilliant on top or forceful down low, but because of the recording style and quality of classic rock albums, the slightly warm and open delivery should work very well. Great speaker for jazz and vocals too. You can get away with less power with these speakers because they are relatively efficient (90db). I even heard the Vandersteen's driven by NAD's little C-315BEE and their higher end C-365BEE CD player and the system sounded great.

I am a big fan of the Cambridge and NAD amps and CD players. The NAD house sound is a little more laid back than the Cambridge which is a touch more lively and forward, although both are ridiculously good for the money. The same general rule applies to the CD players although here I slightly prefer the Cambridge models do to their incredible ability to suck information off your disks. Good physical set up with appropriate isolation from room vibration and the right interconnects and you will be amazed.
How about Denon DF-101S and get some good speakers to go with it.
I neglected to note that I think the Onkyo integrated amp is also very good in this price category, fully competitive with the NAD C-355BEE and Cambridge 650C.