Help: ISO Beginner full setup for excellent sound on $2000 max budget

Overview: Brand new at this, looking for help purchasing beginner full setup of TT, Tube Amp, Speakers, Preamp that is aesthetically pleasing (i.e. minimalist, blends in as piece of furniture with plants), that sounds fantastic, and will stand up over the next 5-7 years, for $2000 max. I'm in search of the best sound, most aesthetically pleasing, and holds up longest overtime. If you could put together a beginner set of quality products for somebody about to enter their 30’s for xmas with a $2000 max budget, what would you include?

Hey y’all, I’m brand new to this and don’t want to jump down a huge rabbit hole, or spend countless hours contemplating decisions about these, not because I don’t have time, it’s just not good for me: I’m so bad at making decisions and I want somebody’s advice that I can trust. So, figured I’d start a dialogue:

I am looking for a simple setup with the following components for a small to midsized room:
- Turn Table (I like Rega, UTurn, and Pro-ject easthetics);
- Preamp (whatever pairs best with the entire setup);
- Speakers (what I think I should invest most in? - I like Omega Super 3 XRS Speakers); and
- Tube Amp (whatever pairs best with the entire setup - I like the Almarro a205a).

The most important aspects of these products are all:
- Durable (wanting to last a while and feel a little modern classic 6-7 years from now);
- Best sound for the price; and
- Aesthetically pleasing (this is important, it will be the center of my living room for the foreseeable future).

My music style: is mostly slower independent stuff: Sun Kil Moon, John Prine, Iron and Wine sounding stuff. Other than that I’ll mostly listen to Hip Hop, like J Dilla, or Rock, like Pearl Jam).

I’d love for it to be something that’s not jumping head first into this as a hobby, but something I can be proud of owning that I can play every day.

If you have any specifics please ask, I apologize for the length of this post, just figured I ’d try to be general enough so y’all could get an idea.

Showing 6 responses by millercarbon

What's really funny is if anyone cares to read through all my many entertaining and illuminating posts they will find buried in there somewhere the stories of the budget systems I have done for people. The most impressive of which the one that really stands out and that I miss being a full system for $1200 all-in.

The main reason it was so impressive is it was a complete system. Not just bookshelf speakers, integrated amp and CD, but also speaker cables, IC, PC and Cones under everything. 

Also did another one for $2500 all-in, including my $500 fee. So coincidentally the same $2k system budget. It was a birthday present and sounded so good the guy was convinced his wife had spent at least $5k. 

It really is that mathematically simple. Why nobody gets it I don't know. But I've done it several times now. It totally works. Its not flashy. It just sounds like way more than anyone would ever think. Same as mine. Tried and true.
I get the idea. You’d like a system that could be featured in both Architectural Digest and Stereophile, for $2k. No problem. Saddle up the unicorn and lets go shopping!

Seriously, a great system can be done even at this price level, but not spending $1600 of the $2k budget on speakers and amp. Not that they aren't nice speakers and amp. They just don't leave anything for a turntable, speaker cables, interconnect, power cord, etc. Things that make a real difference you can hear. Things that will make your budget system shine like nothing you ever heard before.

So what you do, divide your budget, $2k or whatever it is, by 5. Because that's the 5 things you need:
Speakers, amp, source, wire, accessories. The last two are just as important as the first two. Wire is speaker cables, power cords, and interconnects. That's $400 per. 

This narrows it down and focuses your search. If you really want those speakers and amp go ahead and get them but realize you either increase your budget considerably or sacrifice a whole lot of sound for the sake of the bling. Because without quality wire connecting them that's what they'll be, bling.
Yeah hilarious but I'm trying not to be so mean. And yet not fall into insipid like so many others. So check it with the edit.
Okay so the OP got me curious with his eclectic choice of amp and speakers, which at 93 dB actually are sensitive enough to be used with this amp. So maybe not quite as decision averse as he let on.

Plus its a tube integrated which is totally the way to go. Even though these leave precious little for a turntable. But that is also totally the way to go. So here’s what I’ll do.

You spend all the rest (roughly $500) on the best table/phono stage you can find, and increase the budget by $300, and we’ll skip the Cones and wire and I’ll tell you how to get better than you ever heard performance out of this budget system. Satisfaction guaranteed. No BS.
Do you have any suggestions for what you’d spend $ on, what you think might sound good if you went over to a friend’s house who had some cash to spend that wants to become a low-level audiophile?

Best advice I can give, quality beats quantity. Across the board. I’ll use the tube amp and speakers you like for example so you understand just how deep this goes.
Those speakers use one full range driver. Too many inexperienced audiophiles look at that and say no bass. I look at that and say one driver. One driver means all the driver budget went into that one driver. They only had to cut one hole. There’s no crossover network. Without knowing anything else I can tell you that speaker probably sounds pretty damn good for the money. It probably won’t play real loud, or go real deep. But what it does do it will do mesmerizingly good. You will sit and sink into the music and forget all about what it doesn’t do because it does what it does do so well.

Same goes for that amp. Look at the Six Moons review. Look at what’s inside that amp. You don’t know this stuff but I do. Its enough for you to know there’s hardly any parts. Very few parts means more money per part. This goes right down to the inputs. At this price range every dollar spent on an RCA is a dollar not spent where it will impact the sound, which is caps and resistors and transformers. There’s even better reasons to favor a nice little integrated like this and I will let you in on it but not yet too soon.

Normally I say what I said at first, divide the budget evenly. That was from years of experience. Recently some new developments have changed things a bit. Its still super important to attend to every detail. In the past that meant buying quality power cord, interconnect and speaker cables. Now though there is another way to get that same performance from cheap budget wire. It has the advantage of making your whole system sound embarrassingly good. Your friend will be envious, and guaranteed never figure out what you did unless you tell him. You will be surprised to find your modest system sounds better than systems that cost many times what you paid.

Not kidding. Don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. Look at my system.
Let me know if you’re still interested.
@millercarbon, I saw your system and read some comments folks have left about you. You seem like the exact person I want to talk to about this. I’m in your world. Budget sucks, but I’m transitioning into a new career and have to go back to school again so I’m wanting something that I can listen to when I’m studying in my living room, or studying in my bedroom. I’m wanting the warmest, most inviting sound in my living room with that budget. I understand the importance of investing in quality, and I want to do that as best I can within the parameters I’m bound by. I’ll post some of my favorite songs below to give you a sense of the music style I listen to on a regular basis.

Maybe that speaker and amp might be what I should invest in. The buddy who has this setup listens to very similar music to me.

All good details to know. What I would advise for "one and done" is quite a bit different than in your case, which seems to me more like "get me started and then..."

I listened to that music, which I never heard before, and between that and the fact your buddy has this (and I presume you’ve heard it and like it as well) then that argues pretty strong in my book for, basically, going with what works. No need to reinvent the wheel.

We can however make it a whole lot better. You will in the process leapfrog from learning from your friend to teaching him something new.

That amp and those speakers will be wonderful with that kind of music. You will just have to figure out whatever turntable/cartridge/phono stage you can get with the remaining budget. But those are the two choices. Behind Door #1 you stretch and spend more on the amp and speakers. Behind Door #2 you stretch and spend more on the source. Either way will get you good sound.

The tie breaker, two really, are cartridges wear out but speakers last almost forever and amps nearly as long. The other tie breaker is you know what you like. Could be really hard if ever you can find a turntable/phono stage you can say the same about.

Also turntables are a whole subject unto themselves. What you would get now compared to what you will want after living with one a while and learning a lot are two completely different things. This amp and speakers are plenty good enough for you to be able to have your next big move be to a foundation type table. Kind of like what I did. If you saw my system 15 years ago when that table was built, completely different. So make the right choice it can bring smiles and pride and joy for many years to come.

I will PM to give you some valuable info that is not for the time being able to be shared on-line.