Help First Audiophile system

Hey everyone,

I'm a longtime forum reader, but a first-time poster. So to introduce myself, my name is Brian and I'm a starving university student majoring in English-Secondary Education. I have never owned a true audiophile system as I've never had anywhere near enough funds. Well, shortly I will be moving in with a roommate for the first time in a while cutting my rent almost in half. That means I'll have some spare funds. I was going to invest those in paying back loans and buying my girlfriend presents... but where's the fun in that?

So what I'm looking for here is advice on what components I could afford on a very tight budget (think, ~$100-200/mo. in excess funds) so it will take me a long time to save up and purchase any really fancy stuff. But I need SOMETHING good because lately music has lost a lot of it's flavor for me as my speakers in car and on my computer are just too inadequate.

I prefer CDs to Records (own a cat and being a 21 year old college student probably can't take care of them properly) and have a lot of songs on iTunes on my 100GB harddrive so I was thinking that my computer might work as a good source (which would necessitate new sound card reccommendations or the like).

I mainly listen to rock, classical, and blues but sometimes I mix it up with jazz. My knowledge of the hi-end is very very limited so feel free to explain in detail the reasons for and the results of various component choices you may reccommend. I'm also, of course, looking to see prices listed so I can see how long and hard I'm going to have to save up!! Try to keep the reccommendations cheap but quality! Money is the bottleneck here. I will be living in a 992 sq. ft. apartment probably putting the system in the living room (see floorplan here:

System currently: NOTHING!

Anyway, let's get right to it: I am your clay, Mold me!

Thanks in advance,
Brian, you can put an excellent system together for a song used. System maching is the key. Decide if you want a bookshelf or floorstander. Receiver/ Int. amp or seperates. Decide if having a remote is important to you. I've put systems together that I've paid roughly $300-400 that have sounded superb. The moment you get into the higher end, the more your expectations are not meet in relation to the money spent. You could end up chasing your tail and not enjoying the music.
Brian, this is an awesome system that will meet all, and I mean all of your needs,
I hope you're getting the big room with the walk in closet. Anyways, get one of these and build some DIY high efficient speakers and invest your savings.
Thank you Kotta. I definitely know about the diminishing returns of some purchases as they become more expensive.

I'd really be interested in hearing ideas and systems you've built that you enjoyed.

To answer your questions: I prefer floorstanding, I have a universal remote which I could setup to command a system, so as long as it has that capability I'm fine. And Integrated versus seperate I haven't formed an opinion on as I've read a lot on this site that goes either way.

So given all that, what would you suggest I look into/demo? I'm really looking for a solid direction here in addition to specific suggestions.

Do you know where I could go in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area (near Detroit) to demo that system?

I am Turbo :)

I don't think I'm technical enough to build my own speakers but the amp looks pretty attractive.
I second the proposal for the NAD L40. It would make an absolutely fantastic starter system for a small room/budget. Way better than the usual "midfi" gear AND at a fraction of the cost. Happy Listening.
Alright, nominated and seconded, I'm gonna go for it. I'll report back on how it turns out.

Thanks very much guys, I knew I'd get good feedback here!!
Recently put a very nice system together consisting of a used Rega Jura floorstanders w/ a MINT 1990 Sony ES Rec. w/ a Yamaha CDC-655 5 disk CDP which can be bought used for under $75. Total cost $550. Another system; HK VX-550i Rec. (Upgraded bidding posts-$30) w/ ADS L500 Bookshelf and Plateau 16" stands and NEC CD-650 CDP. Roughly $350. Superb sounding. Another very nice little system for a friend. Pionner SX-3400 Rec. w/Energy XL-16 Bookshelf Spks. NEC CD-500 CDP. Under $200. Most important factor is dealing w/reputable sellers. So many choices here and elsewhere.
you can save so much money on wire by buying something like the NAD L40 and NAD stuff is very highly reviewed so I recommend the all in one approach as well.
Thanks so much guys.

Kotta, I'll probably save this thread and use htose as ideas for future upgrades.
I'll suggest a slightly different NAD system. This is the best inexpensive system I can think of -- all quality components. Yes, it's more costly, but it'll take you beyond graduate school. :-)

1. NAD C320BEE integrated amp
2. NAD C521BEE CD player
3. M&K B1500 monitor speakers
4. Blue Jeans Cable for interconnects and speaker cable

The NAD integrated amps allow the preamp and amp sections to be separated so that a subwoofer can be correctly added later. Since a CD player is a mechanical device it is more likely to fail long before the amp. Having them separated means you don't lose you're whole investment when the player dies. M&K speakers come with a 10 year warranty and are an excellent value besides sounding great. Adding one of their smaller subs later will allow the system to grow as money becomes available. You won't find better cabling than Belden and Blue Jeans has made the investment in the best termination equipment. Don't bother with speaker connectors just use pair wire.

Best of luck,
Given that you have a computer with a big hard drive and lots of iTunes, your suggestion of using your computer as a source is a good thought. For only a couple hundred you can buy a Squeezebox and, along with your computer, you've got a pretty good source. For a budget amp, a used NAD or Rotel amp or receiver would be good. For inexpensive speakers, you will get as many recommendations as posters, but I've always liked PSB as good value for not a lot of money.
Brian, you asked me if I know of a place in Ann Arbor to demo the system that I suggested, but do you think that it is morally appropriate to take a dealers time and use his facilities and then buy used? It does not sit well with me. A lot of us buy gear on this site blind, but if we pay an appropriate amount, we can always get out without getting financially hurt, though it is a hassle.
You are right. I was more interested in any hi-end audio places around here where I could look at lots of stuff and get exposed to a range of equipment. If I could find a place like that I'd be inclined to buy new from them. I do have a large fear of shipping since I used to work Stock in a toy store.

I saw what UPS and Fed ex did to these durable plastic toys even double packaged. Projecting that onto what they could POTENTIALLY do to audio equipment is pretty scary.

There is a good place in Ann Arbor called Overture Audio located at 618 S Main Street. The sell nice audio gear - both analog and digital.

In the Detroit area, visit the Woodward corridor between 13 and 14 miles. There is ALMA's Hi-Fi, Audio Dimensions and several others along that 1 mile corridor.
I'll put another vote in for a used NAD. I would also reccommend a cheap, used, tube, dac. I found a california audio labs sigma one on ebay for $150. The addition of this tube dac was a significant improvement when using my computer as a source.

Overture Audio on S. Main is a NAD dealer. Great people to work with, of the dealers in the area, I like them best.

I have bought a lot of stuff online and haven't had any problems with the shipping. I have had very good luck with Audio Advisors in Grand Rapids, as well as Axiom and Ascend speakers. In particular the Axiom M2i's offer amazing performance for the price.

Good luck.
Don't worry about the shipping. Properly packaged all will be well. Most everyone on audiogon has either shipped something or received an item via a shipping company and the horror stories are far and few between.
Go for the NAD system.
source first, nothing will improve down the line. cd player is huge improvement over computer. then maybe a good integrated like nad. quality bookshelf speakers, with cables and interconnects and you are on your way.
I would suggest putting yourself in the hands of a good dealer to start with and then down the road as your personal knowledge increases you can supplement our system with some used purchases. As most of us here have discovered it's better to spend a bit more money/time to get it right in the first place then to start out unsatisfied and then constantly upgrade chasing your dream. If that sounds too much like common sense I'm sorry, but since you're on such a tight budget, just a little more money spent now can save you from spending a lot down the road. Good luck and happy listening!
Integrated Amp: NAD 320 BEE : 200-300
Slim Devices: Squeeze Box (wireless): 299.00
NHT: Super Zeros --if your lucky to find, or SB-2
Paradigm PDR 10/12 sub: 200-250
Interconnects: basic for now, go to rat-shack!
Speaker wire: same!

It may take some time based on available funds, but when done in a few months, you have a great sounding, affordable rig, that is up to date and flexible.
Since you have mainly music files this would be the way to go at first, then you can add on a cool cd player down the line, such as:
NAD 541i HDCD: 200-275
Go with the $150 NAD deal, you'll have good tunes to listen to while you save up for a "better" system. $150 is a no-brainer, do it!
Just to complicate things a bit, I would consider a quality older receiver which, if you purchase in good condition can be very satisfying for little $$$. The classic 70's Marantz 22xx receiver line like the 2270, for example, was built to last and sounds great (with an excellent tuner to boot). They can regularly be found here and on Ebay restored for $200-300. Good luck in your search!