I just want the absolute best sounding set up I can have.
You’ve not given us much to go on here, as you’re the only one who knows what the best sounding system is to you. What are the most important aspects of system performance, such as tonality, detail, bass, imaging/soundstage, warm/rich vs. neutral, vs. hyper detail/bright, etc., are most important to you? The more info you input here the better recommendations you’ll get.
Check out Steve Guttenberg's channel Audiophiliac on YouTube. Lots of excellent info to help out together a $2500 system that is musical.
Think about your long term goals. Consider how much of a hurry you need to be in. Recall the story of Mr. Tortoise and Mr. Hare. If you want to move up the food chain, I'd recommend spending the whole $2500 on good electronics. For that kind of dough, I'd say buy a used, high-value tube integrated amp. Right now, there are solid offerings in this category for sale by VTL, McIntosh, Cary, and others.
Plug it in, and see how you like the improvement. I'm going to predict you'll have great results. You must have some kind of speakers lying around, so just use those for a while. If you're not in fact in a big hurry, don't be so impatient as to split your funds between too many components, because at the lower price ranges you'll not be very happy. Next time you get $2500 or more, spend it on some decent used, full range speakers. Lots of deals available in that category.
Turntable: unless you have a lot of LPs or a lot more money than you're indicating, I say don't do it. At least not yet. Stream and play CDs, and you'll be fine.
Look for an integrated and work on lower cost cables.
You’ll probably get 20 different answers to this question.
If you enjoy having multiple components and cables that you can continue to upgrade, buy separates. I’m one of those guys who likes to change out and tweak my systems.
If you want to go an all in one solution, Dynaudio Xeo 20 with a sub might be something to look at. I’d recommend Kef LS50W’s and sub but I feel the Dynaudios are more reliable.
The Xeo 20’s and the project debut with a $200 phono amp would be close to budget. Add sub later...
I’m thinking about it now and I don’t know how I’d divide up $2500 for an amp, preamp, dac, speakers, cables, project debut, phono preamp... Parasound Halo integrated (?) used for $1600 and $1000 for speakers...blue jeans cables which you can upgrade later
Look at new Schiit Sol and Mani phono amp for your turntable.
I agree with keeping the CD player and DAC. I would invest in a used, however recent vintage integrated amp with phonostage. Search out speakers that are not difficult to drive, thus saving money on amplification.
As an alternative you might check out the Yamaha A-S801 integrated amplifier. A full function integrated that will serve vinyl and digital sources.
One aspect to getting the most for your money is to build your own speakers, if you have the ability. I have been doing it for years, and have enjoyed sound far beyond the cost of this effort.
Also, as probably mentioned, buy good used equipment.
Buy used, to stretch your dollar. Buy 1 component at a time to allow for better quality components. Over time, you’ll end up with a killer system. As you buy each component you’ll have a better sense of what’s next and what you want, rather than buying a bunch of stuff that you’ll later regret. Don’t spend money on cables initially - get BlueJeans cables. You’d have to spend a lot more money and it would still be unclear if you were doing better than BlueJeans. Focus on speakers and/or amplification first. If you have decent speakers, get a nice integrated amp, if not spend the 2.5k on a good pair of tower speakers. Speakers have the greatest impact on sound, so get them right and They will last you decades. Also consider sound treatments and room correction below 300Hz - either using a MiniDSP, or an AVR. I would do a 2017 or 2018 year Marantz avr on closeout pricing. They have preouts, so you can always add a good amp to it at a later date (maybe 6012 or 5013 for around $500 if you can find it)
The purists will scoff at the idea of room correction, however none of us live in ideal rooms, and the sound is being affected and degraded by the room, so thinking of untreated sound as being pure is a fallacy to begin with.if you ignore all the concerns and pay attention to the results, you may be pleasantly surprised.
"Speakers have the greatest impact on sound" from a previous post.
Sorry have to disagree with this. I sold hi end audio for 15 yrs. and we used to do demonstration after demonstration on how source, then electronics could and did make a huge difference in a pair of budget bookshelf speakers. Sometimes the stands were more expensive than the speakers.
When staring out, source, electronics then speakers is where I would go.
And start with basic cables. Then you have a reference point.
Then when settled in you can try different things like cables, wire, or gear.
I use this way in evaluating gear in my system.
Lets say I am trying a new preamp. 3 possible outcomes.
1) it sounds better
2) it sounds about the same
3) it sounds worse.
Keeps it simple.
i have been doing a lot of research for my own budget system, and here are some thoughts on what you could do for $2500
Cambridge Audio CXA60 Integrated Amp - 60W per channel, built-in Phono Stage, built in DAC with coax and optical digital inputs, Preamp Out (for adding upgraded amp later) $750
Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2EX monitor speakers - RAAL ribbon tweeter, SEAS 6” woofer, 33hz - 27khz. all bamboo enclosure. 7 year warranty. $1500
U Turn Orbit custom - belt drive, acrylic platter, ortofon OM5E cartridge, choice of color $289
Blue Jeans Belden 10AWG white speaker cable with choice of connector 2x10 ft strands $45
The above post is a great set-up. I’d even go used on the speakers and get the cxa-80
For $2500 I would go used everything. Keep your CD and DAC for now and spend $1500-2000 on a good amp with a separate preamp. You will have a lot to choose from. My preference would be for a tubed preamp and a SS amp. Don’t skimp here.
Then spend a few hundred on cables and interconnects. Used or DIY. Forget about the TT for now.
And now my wild card.......For speakers look on Craiglist and get a vintage pair of Polk Audio Monitor 10’s if you like to occasionally crank it up. Monitor 7’s would be better for low listening levels but they are not as easy to find. With a little patience that should cost $110-150. You will probably need to upgrade the crossovers with the rest of the money but when you do you will have a system that will put a smile on everyone’s face. It should hold you for a while.
Later when you decide to upgrade (and you will eventually no matter what you start with) sell the speakers for what you paid for them and spend big bucks on speakers. Then work on your TT.