The most important thing. Use your own ears and judgement. Get out there and listen to everything you can. Do not get stuck in "analysis paralysis", as it is so easy to do with all of the information that is now available online.
With manufacturers who sell direct (and have no showroom), ask to demo the gear first. Most of these guys make really fantastic equipment for the money, and most offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Take advantage of it.
Last, remember why you are doing this. Not to impress or win the approval of forum members and friends. But for your own enjoyment.
About 2 years ago I ventured into the TUBE fray with a purchase of a inexpensive amp from Dared. This was a SE tube amp using Pentode tubes. I had all SS equipment before with a medium priced Rotel CD Player.
I listen to all sorts of music from Jazz to todays rock. I have never been so happy with my 2 channel system.
I would recommend a pair of Cain and Cain Abbys, the Onix SP3 amp and a shanling tube cd player. Total cost should be around 2500.00 if you shop around. I currently am trying out the eastern electric m 520 with the Abbys and have a modified shanling cdt-200 by parts connexion in canada.
I live in Minnesota, if your close just send me a email and you can certainly take a listen.
Dlstephenson beat me to it.
I would also recommend listening tooOmega Super 3 XRS
or something similar.This way no stands needed. Also instead of the cd player go with a DAC. One that can be used with your computer if you choose, like the Scott Nixon usbtd
. Just use your computer as the transport. Also this at least gives you a taste of tubes in the system. Maybe a DAC 60
($470 shipped). It uses the same 1704 D/A chips found in the $9000 Wadia 861 disc player but uses tubes in the output.
Throw in a gain clone. Like the Audio Zone AMP 1 or a Audio Sector integrated
($995.00). With only 9 parts in the signal path..extreme transparency takes on a whole new meaning! I can assure you, your system will not sound entry level by any means.
Good luck with the hunt
Another two cents:
If you are set on a SS amp the Qinpu 1.0 integrated sounds remarkably good for its under-$700 price tag. That leaves lots left over for the best source you can afford--the Music Hall/Shanlings are my favourites, with the best (the Shanling CD-T80) being very nice indeed. Just those two components would represent a revolution in your system. I would continue listening with the old speakers while I looked for new ones, and cables.
Good luck and have fun!
If I were looking I would put these on my list
(You asked about SS integrated so that's what I will list)
Creek-makes musical low priced SS integrateds, I think there are a couple for sale here on Agon (none mine).
Jolida makes a SS and a hybrid
A used Exposure 2010 if you can find one.
Jolida JD 100
used Arcam CD 23,Rega Jupiter
Triangle Titus or Comete (ES seies only if used with SS amp)
B&W 601s3, 602s3
Save yourself some money for good interconnects, power cords and speaker cables. I have had good luck purchasing used. This would be less risky on the amp than with CD player or speakers. There are others out there but the above list comes to mind.
I would take a look for one of the Blue Circle integrated's and the Green Mountain Audio Europa's. Many CDP's mentioned above.
How about a Rotel RB1080 power amp--RC1070 pre amp combo, $700 to 800 used. ACI Saphires,again $700 to 800 used. This leaves you $400 to 1100 to play with.
What TweekGeek said! (He said it very WELL, imo.)
Might want to consider the offerings from Klaus Bunge in the Odyssey line in addition to the other excellent suggestions offered.
Our guy asked about 3 pieces (int. amp ss, cd player and monitor speakers, maxed out at $2500. I would try to save 4-5 hundred bucks for some decent cabling and p. cords. So you have roughly 700 bucks to spend per component. Right?
I totally agree with the poster who says it is best to listen and buy what pleases your ears. But if you live in an area that makes that difficult and/or you don't have the time to commit and feel you have to rely on advice/reviews etc. to make a decision, here is a shortcut:
Blue Circle int. amp 21? ($800-1000) is a champ. IF you can find used but you may have to skimp elsewhere. But it would probably be a flagship piece you could live with for years. The Jolida CD player ($600-700 used)would allow you to change your sound by some tube rolling. You can't go wrong with these two coices but you have not much left for speakers and cabeling. Go with these two and either live with your current speakers of maybe pick up a pair of Epos M5s ($350 or so) and trade up later. For cabeling call Frank at signal cable and get his entry level PCs, speaker cable and interconnects. You should be very near budget if you follow this plan.
In the range of these components you can try a piece if you buy used and sell it later for roughly what you have in it and try something else. Lots of choices. Good luck and good listening!
Thanks for all the tips and suggestions, This is really a great site!
I feel somewhat overwhelmed about the zillions of components and configurations after having read up a bit on hi-fi stuff. I figured that I might tap into some of you guys' knowledge here so that I can narrow my choices down before I start checking out stuff. I live in central Indiana and there are not many hi-fi dealers around, except in Indianapolis, which is quite a distance from where I am.
I noticed in Audiogon ads there are a few integrateds around $900-$1000, such as:
a. Musical Fidelity X-150
b. Plinius 8000 series
How about them?
Also for speakers, I read that Dynaudios have been regarded highly, but the contour series I am looking at are at least $1500 used. I may forego upgrading my Denon CD player for the time being if I have a chance to snatch up a pair of these.
I prefer a somewhat neutral to warm sound, esp. in the mid to high frequency range - the bright/metalic sound hurts my hears. I do not care that much about the so-called full/strong bass. Also I do not listen to full-scale ochestral music such as Malher and Bruckner's symphonies. The only orchestral works I listen to mostly are those featuring solo instruments (violin, piano, cello concertos, etc.). I do not turn the volume up that much, usually up to 12 o'clock mark.
I have already received valuable advice, which I will check out. Hopefully I can report back one in a while.
I've heard great things about the Plinius integrated, the 8200, I think. Totally ignorant, even in terms of hearsay, about the Musical Fidelity X line.
I am also a classical fan...everything from gregorian chant to modern minimalist compositions. I own the Totem Acoustic Arro's and in your size room they would be the ideal speaker for your musical taste. I am in love with my pair and I have no plans on upgrading. in a small to medium size room they have very good bass.
As far as the Musical Fidelity goes..stay away! As the famous Forest Gump said "that's all I have to say about that". Just kidding!.. You're about to make the mistake 99% of all audiophiles make getting into the hobby..you're looking at the big names out there. There's better quality as a whole IME going with the smaller companies.
The MF is pleasant gear.. it does give up resolution. Sounding murky and a bit flat after you've spent enough time with it. Or if you haven't lived with something better..you may love it for life.
You've claimed you don't listen at high volumes. Why would you want a high powered amplifier and hard to drive speakers? The more efficient your speakers are the more you can experiment with different amplifiers. You can also listen at lower levels without the music collapsing.
Buying used is great ..if you know what you're getting. Buying without listening..I would stick with companies that have a return policy and buy new.
Oh yeah.. never over look one of the most important parts of the system...THE SOURCE / FRONT END.
I agree strongly with what Gmood says about the source. If the high mids and the highs of your digital system hurt your ears, the first place to look for peace is the source. It makes more sense musically, in my experience, to spend a lot on the source and a little downstream than the other way 'round. Get an amp and speakers that don't do too much damage to a good signal, not an amp and speakers that reproduce a sad one faithfully.
That said, judicious (and inexpensive) tweaking--an isolation transformer, antivibration feet and chassis damping, for example--can help a source that is almost good enough.
Green Mountain has a free home trial period for new product (at least they used to, not sure if its still in effect). Not a bad way to go, but new is approx $900 for the Europa's. I have both the Europas and the Totem Forests in different systems. I love the totem sound and the arro's are a great suggestion above. For $600-$650 used, the Europas are an amazing buy, but not much to look at. Appearance notwithstanding, I prefer them to the Dyns which I have also heard, but not on my system.
As others have suggested, synergy will be important. If you can, try to listen before you buy, or, lock down such a great deal that you can re-sell what you don't like without much loss.